Filled with glancing light and happy faces, “Marina of the Zabbaleen,” Engi Wassef’s compassionate documentary about a poor community of garbage recyclers, fights hard to sweeten the misery of its surroundings. Its success is due in no small part to Rob Hauer’s eloquent cinematography, which creeps inside the mind of a child to turn a rat carcass into a shiny toy and mounds of rubbish into a mysterious kingdom. The child in question is 7-year-old Marina, who lives with her family and 30,000 zabbaleen (recyclers) in Muqqattam village in Cairo. Using a model that has been copied worldwide, Marina’s family sorts and sells paper (others specialize in plastic or aluminum) under the watchful eye of a witchy neighbor and the constant threat of eviction. School appears to consist solely of biblical-theme videos (the zabbaleen are mostly Coptic Christian) and seems unlikely to advance Marina’s dreams of becoming a doctor. Unaware of the threats to her eco-friendly if spirit-crushing life (including government outsourcing of garbage management), little Marina attends religious services and mourns the loss of her toothbrush to marauding rats. Some scenes are difficult to watch — children playing among used syringes; an anesthesia-free dental visit — yet the film never loses its admiration for human resilience and childish imagination. Or for the tenacity of faith among those who seem most abandoned by their God.
Country of Origin
Arabic (English Subtitles)
2008 / 70 min
7PM in Manuel Pacheco Integrated Learning Center (ILC), Room 150, 1500 E. University Blvd.