Last year, Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley interviewed a young documentary filmmaker, Mai Iskander, who had just completed a film about the Zaballeen, an ostracized community in Cairo that has been eking out a living by gathering the city’s waste. Called Garbage Dreams, the film followed a group of teenagers and examined how their rudimentary methods of trash gathering yield a much higher recycling rate than the more sophisticated ones implemented in the West. The film went on to premiere at numerous film festivals and also won the Al Gore REEL Current Award.
Today, Indagare received an email from Iskander with some great news: the Gates Foundation has awarded the Spirit of Youth Association (the non-governmental organization profiled in Garbage Dreams) with $1 million. We wanted to share her email with the Indagare community:
“GREAT NEWS! Yesterday was our first screening (private screening) in Egypt. It took place at the Sustainability Conference in Cairo where waste recyclers (like the Zaballeen) and non-profit organizations from all over the world attended. All the boys from the film were there (all grown-up and dressed-up for the occasion), Adham, Nabil & Osama and Laila, their teacher. They were all so happy to see themselves on the big screen and “Garbage Dreams” really resonated with everyone in the audience.
“At the end of the film, Melanie Walker of The Gates Foundation surprised everyone by announcing a $1 MILLION GRANT that the Gates Foundation is making to The Spirit of Youth Association, the non-governmental organization profiled in “Garbage Dreams.”
“Said Melanie Walker of The Bill & Melinda Gates as she addressed the audience: ‘I feel so strange stepping up here with all these amazing, amazing people. We never had a movie screening at the Gates Foundation. This year maybe a month and a half ago, since we heard about this film, we invited Mai [Iskander] to come screen the film [“Garbage Dreams”] for us at our foundation. As you mentioned, it [“Garbage Dreams”] is very eye opening. Because you can hear about it, but then you see it and it becomes very much more real and you can start to think about ways to try to help and be involved. We are privileged to have had that opportunity . . . Our goal is to try empower groups such as these and others around the world. We have recently come up with a grant that will help support groups like the Zaballeen here in Egypt: a $1 million dollars grant that will through an organization in United Sates and end up helping and supporting the work here in Cairo.’
“Ezzat Naem Guindy, the executive director of The Spirit of Youth Association, responded: “We are honored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for honoring us as Zaballeen. . . We will use these funds to build the capacity of our team, the capacity of our people, and to spread income generating projects and awareness such as the source segregation campaign . . . So that ‘Garbage Dreams’ becomes a reality. That is why I am very grateful for this organization, the Zaballeen, and Dr. Laila [Iskandar, Chairperson CID Consulting] because she did a good job to be honored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation award.”
Read about a Q&A with filmmaker Mai Iskander on Capturing Cairo’s Garbage Dreams