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Egypt: Among Bulaq's Ruins in an Unfinished Revolution

It all started [Ar] around 2007 when “Vision of Cairo 2050″  was first declared, or as it is dubbed “Cairo 2050.” After that, the Egyptian government declared it's intention to demolish Cairo’s main informal neighbourhoods and relocate millions of people to new dwellings in the desert.

Blogger Yahia Shawkat, wrote about the project on his blog Shadow Ministry of Housing [Ar]:

هذا المشروع لاقى الكثير من النقد والمعارضة سواء من المهنيين والخبراء أو من المجتمع حيث يعارضه 61% من مواطنى المجتمعات التى سيؤثر عليها منذ أن كان تابع للجنة سياسات الحزب الوطنى المنحل حيث أنه يهدف إزالة ملايين من المواطنين من مجتمعاتهم بحجة التطوير.
This project faced a lot of criticism and opposition from professionals, specialists and society as 61 per cent of citizens affected by this project oppose it because it was adopted by the dissolved National Democratic Party (former ruling party in Egypt) as it aimed to transfer millions of inhabitants to carry out massive plans of this so-called development.

The blogger continues:

أعتقد الجميع أن الثورة قد أزاحت خطورة هذا المشروع لكن من الواضح أنه يتم تطرحه فى ثوب جديد لتفادى هذه المعارضة
Many thought that the revolution has eliminated the dangers of such a project. In reality, it is obvious that they are trying to relaunch the project in a new set up to try and avoid the opposition it is getting.

A view of Bulaq, taken by the film makers. Used with permission

Bulaq Abu el-Ela is one of those Cairo’s main informal neighbourhoods which could be demolished as the former government had declared. But until now no one knows anything about the fate of the project, especially after the revolution and the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Now, the plight of Egyptians living in those dwellings has been turned into a documentary, thanks to two Italian film makers Davide Morandini and Fabio Lucchini. The idea of “Bulaq: Among the ruins of an unfinished revolution” materialized in 2009, when the two directors traveled to Egypt to carry out research on political organisation in Cairo’s informal neighbourhoods. They both returned to the city after the revolution and started to develop the subject of their documentary film, after being captivated by the story of the demolition of an area inhabited for hundreds of years and the resettlement of its people elsewhere.

Documentary pressbook

Following is the documentary trailer in Arabic with English subtitles, for French version click here, and Italian version here, which is available online, a medium used by the film makers to further spread the message carried in their work and amplify the voices of people inhabiting the districts:

Bulaq Official Trailer from Matteo Keffer on Vimeo.

On January 25, thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, sparking what we now call the Egyptian Revolution. Only a few hundred meters way from the world-famous square, the people from popular neighbourhood Bulaq Abu el-Ela took part in the revolution, finding in demonstrations something more than a glimmer of hope. Through their voices, ‘Bulaq’ portrays their collective struggle against eviction and social marginalisation, whose destiny seems to be strictly intertwined with the hesitant fortunes of the Egyptian Spring..

The documentary also has a Facebook group here, where news about the documentary is shared, as well as links and clippings to articles and posts written about the effected area.

The following short video was produced before shooting the real film as Davide Morandini, the documentary director told me. In the video, we can hear stories from the inhabitants of the district concerning its great location in the middle of Cairo, and also about selling the land to investors from the Gulf Cooperation Council, and about demolition and destruction of buildings and transferring inhabitant to live in flats in the middle of the desert:

The documentary was awarded the first Prize at the first Festival of Short Reportages “Pillole di Attualità” in Rome, in September 2011. [festival program] [It] and will also be screened in Paris International Film Festival for Human Rights, in March 2012.

Further Reading:

Jadaliyya: Struggles that fueled a revolution

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