Bulaq (2011)

2011 § 6 Comments

On 25th January thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, sparking what we call now the Egyptian Revolution. Only a few hundred meters far from the world-famous square, the people from popular neighbourhood Bulaq joined protesters, finding in demonstrations something more than a glimmer of hope. Through their voices, ‘Bulaq’ portrays their collective struggle against eviction and social marginalisation, whose destiny seems to be strictly intertwined with the hesitant fortunes of the Egyptian spring.

Some remarks

The idea of Bulaq materialized in 2009, when the two directors Davide Morandini and Fabio Lucchini travelled to Egypt to carry out Research on political organisation in Cairo’s informal neighbourhoods. They both came back to the city after the so-called revolution and started to develop the subject of their documentary film while working as researchers and journalists. Matteo Keffer, a young Swiss-Italian Filmmaker and friend, joined them in June to shoot their first film.

Moved by insatiable curiosity and an extreme commitment to social justice, the three make up a young team bringing together different skills and experiences, ranging from filmmaking, investigative journalism and social research. Therefore, Bulaq attempts to investigate into one of the many social movements that supported the demonstrations leading to Mubarak’s dismissal. By portraying the reality of a historical, popular neighbourhood besieged by investment companies and property speculation, Bulaq aims to shed light one of the decades-long social struggles hiding behind the fulminating 18 days of the Egyptian Revolution.

The principal photography was carried out during 8 difficult days, juggling between the strict surveillance of the security forces monitoring their movements and the people’s distrust of cameras and journalists, fomented by an unprecedented xenophobic campaign mounted by national media throughout the uprisings. This propaganda wanted, and still wants every foreign journalist or filmmaker to be looked at as a potential threat to national integrity during this very erratic, historical moment.


This documentary attempts a portrait of a contested space in central Cairo. Bulaq Abu el-Ela is a neighbourhood laying just few hundred meters from the world-famous Tahrir Square, symbol of the recent Egyptian Revolution. Since 1979, people in Bulaq live in loom of eviction: Egyptian security forces demolish houses and transfer inhabitants to one of the new towns built at the outskirt of the city, in the middle of the desert, as the old regime had planned to carry out massive plans of so-called urban development known as Cairo 2050. According to this plans, popular neighbourhoods in Downton Cairo like Bulaq would be demolished to leave room for the construction of touristic facilities and 5-star hotels.

Since last February though, the revolution gave inhabitants of Bulaq a hope that their housing rights be respected, and that the new democratic government would give up with demolitions. In fact, Bulaq is close to Tahrir Square, and the neighbourhood was directly involved in the popular uprisings that brought to Mubarak’s dismissal. Hundreds of demonstrators stormed into the neighbourhood, seeking to hide from security forces brutalizing protesters. Women from Bulaq responded offering food and opening the doors of their endangered houses to young revolutionaries. Therefore, this documentary also portraits the ways in which the fortune of this popular neighbourhood intertwine with those of the so-called revolution, telling of some of the intimate aspirations that still bring people to take the street and protest for the right to live a life worth living.

Bulaq was awarded with the first Prize at the first edition of the Festival of short reportages “Pillole di Attualità” in Rome, in September 2011. Here is a collection of snapshots and backstage pics, enjoy it!


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Country: UK | Italy | Egypt
Language: Arabic (English Subtitles)
Filming Locations: Cairo, Egypt

Aspect ratio 16:9 HD (letterbox)
Runtime: 25 min (original version)
Sound Mix: Stereo
Color: Color (HD)

A view of Bulaq, Downtown Cairo.

Our neglected oracle, the legendary Sayed Khamis

Matteo on a rooftop

An antenna stands between the Ministry of Telecommunications and that of Foreign Affairs, looming and silent characters of the documentary

Fabio chats with Sayed, one of the stars featuring in the film

Meditative Sayed walking through the alleys of Bulaq

Final destination: a hostile environment

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