Garbage Dreams

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Garbage Dreams
Directed by Mai Iskander
Produced by Mai Iskander
Cinematography Mai Iskander
Release date
  • April 3, 2009 (2009-04-03) (Phoenix)
  • July 31, 2009 (2009-07-31) (United States)
Running time
79 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Egyptian Arabic

Garbage Dreams is a 2009 feature length documentary film produced and directed by Mai Iskander. Filmed over the course of four years, Garbage Dreams follows three teenage boys growing up in Egypt’s garbage village. Garbage Dreams aired on the PBS program Independent Lens for the occasion of Earth Day 2010 and has been screened in many international film festivals.


Garbage Dreams follows three teenage boys born into the trash trade and growing up in the world's largest garbage village, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. It is the home to 60,000 Zaballeen, also spelled "Zabbaleen" as Arabic for "garbage people." Far ahead of any modern "Green" initiatives, the Zaballeen survive by recycling 80 percent of the garbage they collect. When their community is suddenly faced with the globalization of its trade, each of the teenage boys is forced to make choices that will impact his future and the survival of his community.[1]


Garbage Dreams premiered at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival, where it ran in the US Documentary Competition[2] Garbage Dreams had its international premiere in Europe at the twenty-second International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam[3] and its Middle Eastern premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival.[4]

Garbage Dreams was shortlisted for the 2010 Academy Awards in the category of Best Feature Length Documentary, was nominated for the 2010 Best Documentary by the Director’s Guild of America, and has won 26 international awards including the Al Gore Reel Current Award [5] and IDA Humanitas Award.[6]

Garbage Dreams aired on PBS Independent Lens for the occasion of Earth Day 2010.[7] It has been screened in over 100 international film festivals, including the Woodstock Film Festival,[8] the Hollywood Film Festival, the Bel Air Film Festival,[9] Maryland Film Festival, and the Seattle International Film Festival.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore presented the 2009 REEL Current Award to the documentary Garbage Dreams at the Nashville Film Festival. Gore, and the writer of An Inconvenient Truth, presents the award annually to a film that gives outstanding insight into a contemporary global issue.

Gore said of the film, "Garbage Dreams is a moving story of young men searching for a ways to eke out a living for their families and facing tough choices as they try to do the right thing for the planet. Mai Iskander guides us into a 'garbage village', a place so different from our own, and yet the choices they face there are so hauntingly familiar. Ultimately, Garbage Dreams makes a compelling case that modernization does not always equal progress."[11]

In Variety Ronnie Scheib called the film "Stunning debut ... [Iskander's] lensing grants her subjects immense dignity (they never appear "other" in their poverty) and her film its curious beauty."[12]

In her review in The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis said "Expertly weaving personal fears, family tensions and political action, 'Garbage Dreams' records the tremblings of a culture at a crossroads."[13]

In The Hollywood Reporter Frank Scheck wrote "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."[14]

In The Village Voice Andrew Schenker called Garbage Dreams a "handsomely shot and intermittently fascinating look at Cairo's Zaballeen community."[15]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Waste Management in Cairo Website: Zabbaleen community of Cairo". 
  2. ^ "Garbage Dreams: 2009 SXSW Film Festival". 
  3. ^ "Garbage Dreams". Retrieved January 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Dubai International Film Festival". Archived from the original on 2010-01-02. 
  5. ^ "On Earth magazine, Al Gore presents REEL Current Award to Garbage Dreams". 
  6. ^ "'Garbage Dreams' Wins the IDS/Humanitas Award". Working Films. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "Garbage Dreams - Independent Lens". PBS. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Woodstock Film Festival 2009". 
  9. ^ "International Business Times". 
  10. ^ "SIFF Cinema". Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. 
  11. ^ "Cinemaspy, Garbage Dreams is the Reel Thing". [permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Scheib, Ronnie (2010-01-04). "Variety,Garbage Dreams". 
  13. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (2010-01-06). "The New York Times, The Struggles of Cairo's 'Garbage People,' but No Whining". Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  14. ^ Scheck, Frank (October 14, 2010). "The Hollywood Reporter, Garbage Dreams -- Film Review". 
  15. ^ "The Village Voice, Cairo's Trash Collectors Face Extinction in Garbage Dreams". 
  16. ^ "On Earth magazine, Al Gore presents REEL Current Award to Garbage Dreams". 
  17. ^ "International Documentary Awards: The alternative to Oscar?". Los Angeles Times. 30 November 2009. 
  18. ^ "Bollywood Buzzine". Archived from the original on 2010-05-11. 
  19. ^ "Vail Film Festival Winners 2009". 
  20. ^ Wills, Amanda (12 May 2009). "'Garbage Dreams' Explores Recycling in Cairo Slums". Archived from the original on 26 May 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  21. ^ "15 Documentary Features Continue in 2009 Oscar Race". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 18 November 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 

External links[edit]