“The Tentmakers are as unique, because of their ancient pharaonic art form, as they are ordinary within Egyptian society.
Through ‘The Tentmakers of Cairo’ I wanted to make a film that could bring across the realities of Egypt’s revolution for the ordinary citizens of Egypt; the fact that so much was taking place in the name of the Egyptian people and yet the majority had no say in what was happening.
Everyone I talked to when I started filming said they had been in Tahrir Square in 2011, however the longer I stayed and the more I got to know everyone the more I found out that this was not always true. Most Egyptians had been locked in their homes, only informed about what was happening by the rumours spread through their communities and the televisions blaring State-run media into their homes.
When I met the tentmakers one of the first things I noticed was that in every shop there was a television blaring propaganda and rumour into the street. Again as I got to know more about the men and started to learn more of their language, I realised that politics and current affairs was all these men talked about. They were the microcosm of Egyptian society at large.
Their stories and ideas of what were happening outside of this small street were solely based on what they saw on the television or on what people told them. There was little to no firsthand experience. I wanted to be able to capture this as best I could.
From the beginning I did not want to hold interviews or have a narration telling the story behind the story. I wanted the men to as much as possible tell their own story and in so doing immerse the audience in their lives. The fact that there is no music throughout the film, and the soundtrack is solely made of the sounds of the street, brings the audience even further into their world, embedding us ever so briefly in their lives, in their reality.
I always wanted to make a purely observational film and knew that I would just have to wait for the opportunity to do so and this was it. I think it is a very honest film which intertwines the larger story of Egypt with the smaller stories of the men and their work and the affect the ongoing turmoil is having on them."
- Kim Beamish