Trash (and what to do with it), like other forms of pollution -- not to mention global warming -- is set to become one of the world's more talked-about subjects in the years ahead of us, so GARBAGE DREAMS, the new documentary by Mai Iskander (shown below, with a certain ought-to-have-been-
President), is nothing if not timely. Her film covers the Zaballeen (which, we are told, is the Arabic translation for "garbage people"), a Coptic Christian community on the outskirts of Cairo that occupies the world's largest "garbage village." Sounds enticing, no?
More varied and interesting than it might first appear, Iskander's documentary actually tracks a recent time when this community, a staple of Cairo garbage-collecting for a century, is threatened with extinction because of Egypt's sudden importation of foreign workers and companies to handle the collection. The Zaballeen have made a "go" of their business and their lives due to their very early use of recycling methods, but now these seem not to matter to the powers-that-be (for whom modern methods and cheap labor are more important). Consequently, everyone is scrambling to survive.
|By the end of the film, which pretty consistently holds your attention and is -- god knows -- exotic in its steeping us in the life of a village of garbage, I was confused about what was actually happening, or what might still happen -- and why. While Garbage Dreams had its world premier at the 2009 SXSW fest and has won a multitude of awards from smaller film festivals around the country, I won-|
der if this might be due more to its subject and locale than to its outright excellence as a documen-
tary. It's interesting, but it leaves a few too many sub-
jects not fully explored.
Garbage Dreams opens Wednesday, January 6, at New York City's IFC Center.