DER Documentary

The Tentmakers of Cairo - Sunnaa' al-Kheyam fi al-Qahira

Tentmakers of Cairo launch preview watch a preview

by Kim Beamish
produced by Non'D'Script
color, 94 min, 2015
in Arabic
with English subtitles

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The Tentmakers of Cairo offers unprecedented access to a small community of talented craftsmen, known as tentmakers, who practice the uniquely Egyptian art of Khayamiya, or hand stitched appliqué. In a small covered market, in the heart of Old Islamic Cairo, four tentmakers expertly stitch ornate Islamic designs, as their centuries-old craft collides with a 21st century revolution.

Historically, Khayamiya was used to decorate the interiors of tents, and is an important part of Egypt's living heritage that dates back to the time of the Pharaohs. However, in a more modern, tourist-friendly incarnation, today's artisans create wall-hangings and cushion covers. The film provides access to the techniques and practices surrounding this traditional art, as well as its changing audience as the tentmakers travel to the USA and France to showcase their work in quilting exhibitions. Abroad, the tentmakers find new attention and customers, and bemoan the lack of respect for their work in their own country.

Spanning three turbulent years, from Egypt's January 2011 revolution ending President Mubarak's 30-year rule to the June 2014 election of Abdel Fatah al Sisi, viewers experience the revolution through the eyes of these Egyptians. With tourism at a standstill, the tentmakers struggle not only to maintain their culture and craft, but also to survive.

“A deeply original and empathetic approach to Egypt's 'revolution', which masterfully deals with the complexity of major political events, carefully avoiding any kind of cliches and seamlessly combining micro and macro perspectives, breaking news and millennial traditions.” — Paolo Moretti, Visions du Réel
“Kim's documentary project runs parallel with the story of his protagonists; with its rigorous observational form threading intricately fashioned personal experience from the fabric of everyday life into strikingly coherent images and stories of contemporary political and cultural crisis in Egypt.” — John Hughes, Producer, writer, director

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award, Margaret Mead Film Festival, 2015
Prix Buyens-Chagoll, Visions du Réel, 2015
El Ray Award for Excellence in Documentary Narrative Filmmaking, Barcelona Film Festival, 2015
Ethnocineca: Ethnographic and Documentary Film Festival, 2016
8th ETNOFILm - International Festival of Ethnographic Film, 2016

Related Resources
Film Site
Producer Site
Video: Interview with producer/director Kim Beamish at Visions du Reel

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