Garbage Dreams Events Make People Look At Garbage Differently

Posted on January 29, 2010

Community Cinema held 37 free events for Garbage Dreams, which focused on raising awareness about recycling. From the sheer number of questions about recycling, we know that the film sparked discussion, moved people to action, and provided education on the local level. Filmed over four years, Garbage Dreams follows three teenage boys born into the trash trade and growing up in the world's largest garbage village –– a ghetto located on the outskirts of Cairo. The film will have its television premiere on April 27 at 10:00 PM on Independent Lens on PBS (check local listings). Learn more about the local impact of Community Cinema below.

Filmmaker Mai Iskander sat down in January with Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU in Washington, D.C. to talk about global environmental challenges and how the "Zabaleen" -- or garbage collectors -- and how they've captured the world's attention for their startlingly efficient, eco-friendly, and low-tech methods of recycling. Listen to the full interview [20 minutes] >>The New York Times' Jeannette Catsoulis reviewed Garbage Dreams. She said, "...this new film digs deeper into the politics of a life that few would choose but many depend on." Read her full review >>

At one of our first events at the Saratoga Springs Public Library in New York, our partner organization for the free screening was the local chapter of The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). Our speaker from GAIA was Tracy Frisch, who is active in several other nonprofit organizations in the area. There were also two audience members –– a husband and wife –– who own a local Egyptian products store and were brought up in Cairo.

In sunny San Diego, Calif., at the San Diego Public Library, Garbage Dreams was the best screening of the season according to our partners. It was the biggest audience so far, and the event had an excellent speaker who kept more than half the audience in their seats for Q&A. The film presented an opportunity to discuss grassroots activism and how to mobilize now on recycling issues in San Diego. Read local coverage from the the San Diego Reader >> Now is the time for recycling. In the video below, filmmaker Mai Iskander and Adham, one of the young subjects from the film, take us on a tour of a typical American trash dumpster: 

Michael Wonsidler works for both Zero Waste San Diego and the local county waste department. Zero Waste San Diego is a local grassroots group that advocates for increased recycling awareness and better alternatives to current recycling practices. Michael's combined knowledge of government action and grassroots perspective made him the perfect speaker to engage the audience in meaningful discussion about the issues presented in Garbage Dreams

Like most cities, San Diego constantly works to improve its recycling capacity. "I’ve always wondered what happens with my trash. It seems to magically disappear each week and I don’t really have any idea what happens to it or what impact it has on my community. Well that all changed last night. What I learned at the HoustonPBS Community Cinema screening of Garbage Dreams was fascinating." That was Julie Coan's reaction to her Garbage Dreams event in Houston where they recycle about 22 percent of their solid waste. Houston's recycling rate is on the rise, but they can probably learn some tricks and procedures from cities like San Antonio, Portland, and San Francisco who are America's municipal "Recycling Stars." Austria is the leading recycler in the European Union with about 60 percent of waste products being recycled. The United States recycles about 32 percent of its waste. 

At the Beijing dump, scavengers earn three times the monthly salary of college professors. Scavengers in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, earn three times the minimum wage, putting them in the top 5 percent of income earners in that city. Learn more interesting facts and consider some of the challenging questions or activities in our Discussion Guide (PDF, 2.5M). [Consider not printing the discussion guide. You can view PDF documents on your computer, laptop, Palm, Blackberry, iPhone, or other smart device.] The film makes it clear. 

Our national partners create unique ways for audiences to learn more about recycling, sustainability, and environmental education. Global Alliance For Incinerator Alternatives is a worldwide alliance of more than 500 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 80 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. The Cloud Institute works to ensure that innovative curricula is available to educators in the K-12 school systems to prepare young people for the shift toward a sustainable future. Working Films leverages the power of storytelling through documentary film to advance struggles for social, economic, and environmental justice, human and civil rights.


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