In an exclusive first release, Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Kadry unveils the message behind his breathtaking video as he talks travel, art, and how juxtaposition can help communities battle prejudice.
It’s the juxtaposition; it’s the unfathomable combination of cultural icons interacting seamlessly through an unlikely setting that renders this video a piece of art. Because, if the sight of a Bedouin woman wanderlusting in awe is unusual for the average viewer, the recreation of such a scene in Paris is nothing short of striking.
Bedouin communities are known for their reluctance to have their women photographed. But in a world where intercultural realities reshape perceptions, global citizenship crafts new connections, and the search for identity becomes pivotal in defining personal choices, are we able to cast a whole group into an entire category anymore?
That’s exactly what Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Kadry set out to question. With impeccable direction and a sharp eye, the artist chose an unequivocally Arab attribute to underscore - precisely - the equivocal ramification of interpretations it elicits. A cultural icon in an unlikely location, this Bedouin woman roams the streets of Paris as if taken over by a sudden thirst for discovery.“When I was walking in the street filming it, the amount of people staring at us was indescribable,” he says. “This is what I want to break with the film. I want to break this idea by showing an Arab icon like a Bedouin lost in the streets of Paris and exploring the French culture.”
A former photo editor at AUC newspaper Caravan and co-founder of the university’s first photography club, Kadry’s photography journey took an international turn at York University in Canada and the Speos Paris Photographic Institute. His photography, often for overseas clients, was featured in Show Business magazine and National Geographic online.
The filmmaker created the video, along with a set of photographs, a few months ago in the midst of worldwide controversy regarding the use of the burkini in France, in an effort to portray the veil as a cultural attribute, prompting viewers to inadvertently question the automatic associations that media global narratives have them accustomed to.
“I released the teaser to assess people’s reactions on an iconic figure blending into the Western world for the first time, a place that is a cultural symbol itself such as Paris’ Tour Eiffel. It’s the fusion between an Arab icon and the Western world to send a small message of peace,” he explains. “The bigger message is that we have a history and heritage, and that we can co-exist in peace. This Bedouin woman is there for the first time; there is a big sense of discovery, that she is lost in the beauty of Paris. She is not a terrorist, and she is not related to a terrorist attack. I’m asking viewers to look at it in a different light.”
“I’ve done some research, and it is the first time a Bedouin woman has left her habitat and been placed in Paris. If you Google pictures of Bedouins, all you find is desert landscapes. They are only portrayed in their natural habitat; they are only related to a remote past and never linked to the future. I wanted to break this stereotype and show Arabs as travellers,” he explains. “Some Bedouins are very conservative and women are not allowed to be photographed or to travel. But there are many others who do. The world is one now, and cultures are more interconnected.”
The video yet underscores a fundamental contradiction in a neoliberal world: while the world has become more interconnected than ever, it has also bred more tension and intolerance to the ‘otherness’. How can cultures live together?
“Well, this is what I am aiming to do with this video, which will perhaps turn into a series. I want to create juxtapositions and contrasts,” Kadry says. “I would love to take a member of an African tribe and place him in Times Square.”
Having travelled across 40 different countries to paint them with his lens, Kadry is working on his ongoing project Faces of the World, a photography series he has been developing for over four years and expects to release as his first photography exhibition. “People fear that which is different. And that is the problem we all have as citizens of the world,” he says. But part of the solution to that problem, he thinks, may be just be a few camera clicks away.