Price: $310.00

    Code: 2359

    Directed by Mai Iskander
    2009, 53 and 79 minute versions available
    Purchase: $310 | Classroom Rental: $125
    Please call us at (800) 723-5522 for special K-12 pricing.

    A 2011 "Notable Video for Adults" as selected by the American Library Association
    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.

    In 2003, following the international trend to privatize services, the city decided to replace the Zabelleen with multinational garbage disposal companies. Their giant waste trucks now line the streets, but they are contractually obligated to recycle only 20% of what they collect, leaving the rest to rot in giant landfills.

    Suddenly, the Zabelleen community is finding their way of life disappearing before their eyes. 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.

    A note on the two versions: The 53-minute version of this documentary profiles only two of the three boys mentioned in the above description, Adham and Osama. The 73-minute version features all three boys.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    * Winner, Best International Film, Santa Cruz Film Festival, 2010
    * Winner, Al Gore Reel Current Award, Nashville Film Festival, 2009
    * Winner, Montana Cine International Film Festival, 2009
    * Winner, Bermuda International Film Festival, 2009
    * Winner, Mexico International Film Festival, 2009
    * Winner, Phoenix Film Festival, 2009
    * Winner, Vail Film Festival, 2009
    * Official Selection, SXSW, 2009
    * Official Selection, Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival, 2009


    "Garbage Dreams is a moving story of young men searching for ways to eke out a living for their family and facing tough choices as they try to do the right thing for the planet… Ultimately, Garbage Dreams makes a compelling case that modernization does not always equal progress." - Al Gore

    “Expertly weaving personal fears, family tensions and political action, Garbage Dreams records the tremblings of a culture at a crossroads.” - The New York Times

    “An evocative examination of the clash between tradition and modernism . . . Championed by Oscar winner Al Gore and the spur for a million-dollar donation by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Garbage Dreams could ride its sociological importance to Oscar recognition.” - The Hollywood Reporter

    “This film is highly recommended for people interested in social issues or environmental Middle Eastern studies, and urban studies. The film may easily be used in classrooms to motivate discussions on these and similar topics… Iskander has made a film that conveys a world level problem through a precise example and ultimately underscores the importance of learning globally in conjunction with thinking globally.” - Educational Media Reviews Online

    "This engaging film captures global economic tensions of modernization through the endearing aspirations of youth and is a heartfelt asset for economic, globalization and urban studies". - Al Jadid “Breathtaking… Garbage Dreams is a human film about human problems as much as it is about modernization and large-scale issues. And it is a beautiful film…. I think that intimacy makes this film truly effective – visually, structurally, and thematically… Garbage Dreams begs the audience to consider whether industrialization is really what developing countries need and if it is worth the price of cultural erasure and the loss of people like the Zaballeen.” - Counterpoise

    “Fascinating.” - The Village Voice

    “Three and a half stars! A fine documentary that explores the effects of global economic trends on people’s everyday lives in a major city. Highly recommended.” - Video Librarian

    "This engaging film captures global economic tensions of modernization through the endearing aspirations of youth and is a heartfelt asset for economic, globalization and urban studies" . - Al Jadid “Its portrait of perseverance and ecological commitment is enlightening.” - NY Daily News

    “Garbage Dreams’ images have the unsettling primal power of a dystopian sci-fi movie come to life… director Mai Iskander has a light touch that sneaks up on you… The picture takes you beyond grand, seemingly unconquerable global issues of increasingly scarce resources and points to a case: This is how someone can be more resourceful, more mindful. The Zaballeen aren’t held up as deities for our self-loathing and admiration; we’re allowed to look them in the eye, to see them as human.” - Slant Magazine

    “Stunning. The film's most amazing character is the fantastic garbage town of Mokattam itself, with its winding alleyways piled high with trash, its buildings half exposed, riddled with crevices stuffed with bags of refuse. Children play on colorful mountains of shredded fabric, while their slightly older siblings sort plastics and paper in huge sacks, later to be pulverized and sold abroad as raw material… Iskander has worked extensively as a cinematographer and, as fascinating as her anthropological revelations are, it's her lensing that grants her subjects immense dignity (they never appear ‘other’ in their poverty) and her film its curious beauty.” - Variety

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