When I came to Cairo in October I knew that in these 5 months ahead of me I had to make some kind of film about Egypt. At first I just had some general topics but could not think of anything specific until I found out about an area on the outskirts of Cairo, where the inofficial garbage collectors live. The streets of Garbage City are completely covered with the trash that is picked up, recycled and resold by the so called “Zabbaleen”. This is where I worked at an organisation called the Association for the Protection of the Environment (A.P.E.).
During my stay there I found out that these people, despite living in a giant garbage heap are one of the kindest I have ever met. I gave some of them English lessons twice a week and in the end they became very good friends of mine, that I will always visit when I come back to Egypt. I learned a completely new perspective by seeing Egypt the way that this in many ways neglected community sees it. So very quickly I had decided to make a film about them, their work, their problems and in general the problem with waste in Egypt. It was not very easy, because even though I knew people, who lived in Garbage City, they always told me that the Zabbaleen do not like journalists, photographers and film makers to take pictures of their town, as they worry that they will give them to some foreign newspaper and say: “This is Egypt. People there live in garbage.” But when I finally got the chance to film, I hardly experienced any hostility or suspicion by the people. All of them were very helpful, interested and wished to see the film and pictures whenever I finish it.
Now after a few weeks of editing and recording it is finally ready and I will try very hard to make an Arabic version of it so that they can also watch and understand it and see that I do not want to portray them in a bad way but want them to be proud of what they do and get appreciation for their amazing recycling achievements in a country, where nobody cares about this issue.
So please watch the film (there is an English and a German version below) and let me know what you think of it and if you ever visit Cairo you should not miss the chance to visit Garbage City and the monastery.