Garbage Dreams

Keeping on the subject of Egypt, I saw last night an incredible documentary. Perhaps one of the best I have seen in a really long time. It is called Garbage Dreams. It is the directorial debut of Mai Iskander and it is a tremendous effort. It is a powerful story about growing up, the hopes and dreams we carry in our lives, community, family, human and cultural survival. This movie also casts a beautiful light on a group of people who are too invisible to the rest of the world and gives them a voice.

The synopsis according to the website is as follows:
Filmed over four years, GARBAGE DREAMS follows three teenage boys – Adham, a bright precocious 17-year-old; Osama, a charming impish 16-year-old; Nabil, a shy artistic 18-year-old – born into the trash trade and growing up in the world’s largest garbage village, a ghetto located on the outskirts of Cairo. It is a world folded onto itself, an impenetrable labyrinth of narrow roadways camouflaged by trash; it is home to 60,000 Zaballeen (or Zabbaleen), Egypt’s “garbage people.”

For generations, the residents of Cairo have depended on the Zaballeen to collect their trash, paying them only a minimal amount for their garbage collection services. The Zaballeen survive by recycling the city’s waste. These entrepreneurial garbage workers recycle 80% of all the garbage they collect, creating what is arguably the world’s most efficient waste disposal system.

When the city they keep clean suddenly decides to replace the Zaballeen with multinational garbage disposal companies, the Zaballeen community finds itself at a crossroads. Face to face with the globalization of their trade, each of the teenage boys is forced to make choices that will impact his future and the survival of his community.

Interview with director, producer, cinematographer Mai Iskander:

The movie is touching, poignant, at times humorous, and enlightening. We will find out on February 2nd whether Garbage Dreams, already shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, moves one step closer to receiving that well deserved golden statue.

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