Garbage Dreams

Adham wants to get married. He’s only 17, but that hardly seems to matter. He needs a wife. Weddings, it turns out, are one of the few bright spots in the otherwise difficult existence of the 60,000 Zaballeen living just outside Cairo. Each morning the Zaballeen flood the city to collect bags of trash. Their income is from recycling nearly everything they find. But then the government privatizes some of its trash collection, and European-owned companies with large trucks and enormous bins threaten to make the Zaballeen obsolete. Garbage Dreams traces the story of Adham and his friends—the handsome and artistic Nabil and the shiftless Osama—as they try to imagine a future with no garbage. Without the trash, hopes for weddings are quickly dashed. Director Mai Iskander’s documentary makes a few rookie mistakes—every time the garbage trucks show up, cue the ominous music. And at no point does the documentary consider how a more efficient trash system might benefit teeming, chaotic Cairo, a city of 16 million. Neither does the doc explain why, in a Muslim-majority country, the Zaballeen are from its tiny Christian population. Still, the film isn’t get mired in tragedy. Adham and his friends are shown in moments of often hilarious teen angst, coping with universal emotions. Free, but RSVP recommended to (NR) LAURA ONSTOT

Sat., Jan. 23, noon, 2010

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