MESP FILM SERIES: SPRING 2011


The MESP Film Series featured five films and documentaries for the Spring semester. Marína of the Zabbaleen (Egypt/USA, 2008), winner of “Best Arabic Documentary” at the Dubai International Film Festival, examines the life of a 7-year-old Egyptian girl living in the Zabbaleen, a garbage-collecting village in Cairo. In this community, Coptic Christians from rural Upper Egypt make their living as garbage collectors and recyclers. The locals sort through Cairo’s trash into re- cyclable paper, plastics, and other components, while pigs eat the rotting refuse. This documentary is a reflection on urban poverty, global health crises, and the state of the Egyptian economy.

The Salt of this Sea (Milh Hadha al-Bahr, Palestine, 2008) follows the story of Soraya, born in Brooklyn in a working class community of Palestinian refugees, who discovers that her grandfa- ther’s savings were frozen in a bank account in Jaffa when he was exiled in 1948. Direct, stubborn, and somewhat naive, she fulfills her life-long dream of “returning” to Palestine. Slowly she is faced with an unexpected reality and is forced to confront her own anger. The film represents a nod to the Palestinian diaspora and evolving Palestinian identities.

The Day I Became a Woman (Roozi ke zan shodam, Iran, 2000) was temporarily banned in Iran. The film comprises three interconnected vignettes depicting women at different stages of life in the country. First, a young girl’s life is devastated when, on her ninth birthday, she can no longer play with boys because she is “now a woman.” Second, a young woman decides to enter a bicycle race against her husband’s wishes. Third, an old woman becomes economically independent and, as a result, “free,” but even this freedom is questionable.

Forget Baghdad (Germany, 2002) is a documentary tracing four Baghdadi Jews, all former members of the Iraqi communist party, who were forced to emigrate at Israel’s founding. After fleeing to Israel, the men found themselves on the outskirts of a society built and governed by European Jews. Also known as “Sephardis” or “Mizrahim,” Arab Jews represent a lesser-known community that has long found itself caught between warring worldviews. The divided identities of these men speak to a larger theme of global, political and cultural turmoil.

Lastly, Ajami (Israel/Palestine, 2009) traces five stories from a religiously-mixed communi- ty of Muslim and Christian Arabs in Tel Aviv. Omar, an Israeli Arab, struggles to save his family from a gang of extortionists. Malek, an illegal Palestinian worker, seeks money to pay for his mother’s operation. Dando, an Israeli policeman, searches for his missing brother who may have been killed by Palestinians. Other young men face rejection by members of the community for mixing with an Israeli girl. The film is an insightful look into a culturally-mixed community in Israel.