Above the Law / 2017 / 20″

Stage: Research

Above the Law is a short film about a pigeon breeder named Hanan Badier, who lives in Cairo’s Manshiyat Naser district, commonly referred to as “Garbage City.” Predominantly a Coptic Christian neighborhood, the community is responsible for collecting and sorting out the majority of the city’s waste.

Hanan’s experience of keeping pigeons, and his knowledge of bird migration in general, will guide a series of scenes in Manshiyat Naser, as well as animated maps illustrating the assorted routes migrating birds (pigeons, cuckoos, swifts) take every year while travelling between Europe and North to Central Africa. Near the end of the film, these maps will be superimposed with those that interactively trace the popular routes that refugees take across the same landmasses.

The pigeons are kept in wooden units resting on tall stilts, which seemingly tower over the urban landscape, across mainly impoverished districts in Cairo. The pigeons are released every day, and on their own accord they return to the coop by nightfall. Hanan will explain they only return because their basic needs are being met (water, shelter, community) by him, and if it was not for that they would either take up residence in a neighboring coop or they would join a passerby flock in order to survive.

As the film unfolds, it will poetically depict how the obstructive geo-political restrictions (borders, visas, conflicts) are irrelevant to the migration of other living beings, and how “migration means survival.”