Interview with filmmaker Mai Iskander of Garbage Dreams.

Garbage Dreams runs at the IFC Center in New York through January 19.

New York, January 6, 2010—Shot over a four-year period, Mai Iskander's Garbage Dreams tracks the lives of three Zaballeen teenagers living in Mokattam, a garbage village on the outskirts of Cairo, at a time when their way of life and means of survival is being threatened.

The city of Cairo, with a population of eighteen million, has no waste disposal system. For over a century, a subculture of rural Coptic Christians from the south of Egypt has been collecting and recycling garbage. They are remarkably efficient , recycling 80 percent of the trash they collect from people's doorsteps. Now Cairo has hired three multinational waste disposal companies from Spain and Italy who are contractually required only to recycle 20 percent of what they collect and landfill the rest. The Zaballeen are therefore competing with technologically better-equipped (but less productive) companies for their raw material. Poignant, entertaining and enlightening,“Garbage Dreams” is both a coming-of-age story and a portrait of a close-knit community. It has won seventeen Best Documentary awards, including Nashville Film Festival's Reel Current award, selected by Al Gore, and has been shortlisted for an Oscar. To see a longer version of this interview, visit For more info about the film,
Segment filmed by Liza Béar