It’s not every day that total amateurs get the chance to make a video for a contemporary art museum, but that’s exactly what happened to me when Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, emailed me out of the blue to ask if I wanted to make a video about graffiti in Cairo for the museum’s new Youtube Channel called MOCA TV.
My first reaction was to assume the email was spam. My second was to google him to make sure his name was spelled correctly and thus not spam. My third was to post a screen shot of his email on my Facebook wall to show off to my friends. My fourth was to jump up and down on my bed at 3AM and do a little victory dance.
The video on Cairo graffiti was made without a budget thanks to the generous contribution of footage by several Egyptian journalists and filmmakers, the score and editing were also contributed pro bono. It’s quite difficult to make a 3-minute video that should encapsulate everything that has happened over the past two years in graffiti; to make it on a tight deadline with no money is quasi impossible, but we managed.
Consequently, the MOCATV people commissioned me to make three more videos on graffiti in Libya, Palestine and Beirut. Fortunately, I’d recently been to Tripoli and Beirut and had friends there, and had recently blogged about a graffiti artist in Palestine, so I was able to reach out to contacts and see if they were interested in working. Thanks to the incredibly tight network of Arab journalists on twitter, friends put me in contact with fixers in all three destinations, as well as street artists, producers and musicians.
The videos – below- are the product of six months of work and communication online through different time zones and different work cultures, and they are testimony to how you can work online if you have an international network of professionals and creatives.
Filtering hours and days’ worth of footage down to just three minutes was excruciating; but I hope that in some way or another these videos do some service to the graffiti scenes in the respective countries.
It was a great opportunity to shed light on the intellect, eloquence and intelligence of Arab street artists, to show their passion for their cause and their potential. The fact that these videos are on MOCATV’s channel alongside internationally renowned street artists like JR, Shephard Fairey and Os Gemeos is a great honour and hopefully will pay back these Arab artists by giving them the recognition and credit they deserve.
For the Beirut video, P&G Crew made a fantastic mural, while EPS and Kabreet also sprayed graffiti especially for the cameras, which we used in a time-lapse sequence. Aside from these artists, the video also features art work by Ali Rafei, Inti, Ammar Abo Bakr, Yazan, Parole & Obetre and many others.
The Palestine video features artists Hafez Omar, Areej Mawasi, Majd Abdel Hamid and Hamza Abu Ayash speaking about life as an artist under occupation, as well as artwork by Amal Kawash, Mohamed Gaber and several other murals. Amer Sweidan has some fantastic photos of Palestinian murals here, including many featured in the video.
The Libyan video was shot by Osama AlFitory, who heard about a graffiti project organised by the Faculty of Fine Arts in Tripoli. The aim was to create a 2km long mural that would enter the Guinness Book of Records, but more importantly, the mural would be made on a wall facing Muammar Gaddafi's compound, now a pile of rubble after Nato missile attacks. It was a great opportunity to capture artists and students participating in something that would have been completely impossible under Gaddafi's tyrannical rule. After having visited Tripoli during their summer elections, I was very fortunate to meet so many brave, intelligent and proud Libyans, who are fiercely proud of their country- and I hope this comes across in the few minutes of footage. The video features the works of Taha El Aga, Asmaa El Sewesy, Ayman El Jehani , Rayan El Azzaby and many others.
Last of all, the Cairo video was made with footage contributed by Farah Saafan, Amr Nazeer, Ian Lee, Rodina Mikhail, Islam Momtaz and Carmel Alyaa Delshad. It features a long list of Egyptian artists in the video's credits, and was produced just a few days after the Mohamed Mahmoud mural was defaced by the baladiya.
None of these videos would have been possible without the invaluable help, insight and incredibly professional contribution of Adib Nessim. For their help and feedback, I would like to thank Stephanie Yamine,Mickey Yamine, Mohamed ElDahshan, Hisham Hellyer, Ali Rafei, Georges Moussayan, Ganzeer, Don Stone and my friends who held me back when I tried to jump off bridges and swallow Windex in suicidal frustration over producers not answering their emails and artists having fits.
For further information on the locations or for work opportunities, please contact the filmmakers:
May Odeh in Palestine email@example.com
Osama AlFitory in Libya firstname.lastname@example.org
Amahl Khouri in Lebanon email@example.com
and Marwan Imam in Cairo firstname.lastname@example.org