Saturday, February 20, 2010

Light Me Up: closure

I can't say much about some things. Some things are sacred and others are just best kept quiet, still inside my heart. At least for now. The least I can do is say that I feel like I'm in a dream.

I've been back now for two days. I feel a little ill - my stomach, nose, throat and head. Been sleeping on and off like a 2 year old. Have got to start sending OLF gifts out to those who donated, have to start looking through the footage. photos and audio gathered and connecting the dots.

It was a great trip! Filled with love and magic and coincidences and breakthroughs and wins and losses. More got accomplished than originally expected or hoped, but with that come more expectations and hopes! ehhehe.

Now I have to get back to making stuff happen here in Chicago before the initial depression of being back home sets in. Theres a lot of footage to go through, a lot of things to reflect on and to figure out.

I have called three people since Ive been back including my parents; It's taking me a few days to adjust. I think by midweek I will begin to reconnect here and to understand exactly what needs to be done and how and I will begin.

It's all moving forward.

I want to talk about the painting project inspired by Sinai,, but I simply can't. Not only because I cant here, but also because the experiences I had that inform the painting project were so spiritual and unexplainable that I only hope I can paint them. I now have family in the mountains, and I am more grateful for that than anything else in the world. I don't know what direction my life will take now, but the transformation that took place and continues to is a heart transformation, one that I am most honored to be a part of.

Much like the film, I think this trip has got to have transformed the painting project in more than a million ways: therefore I must transform the way I write about it, talk about it and also the actual making of it, too!


Friday, February 12, 2010

Committing to Being Committed

So, the day before the last day in Cairo before going to Sinai to work on my painting project and to spend my birthday in my favorite place on earth, I finally finished this one exercise I like doing...through which I became committed to everything that I am doing! I know, you think its weird, because you think Im obviously already committed, but I find myself thinking and worrying and backtracking and not completing and doubting, so, I gave all of that up and began being fully committed in everything! You still think Im crazy, Im sure, because what the hell does any of this mean anyway, and how does it manifest itself in reality? right?

Well, Ill tell chronological order....That day and the next were ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. First, that same day, I found a 2 of hearts playing card on the street near the hostel (i used to find cards all the time, but hadnt in a long time, and it usually serves to mean something special)!

Finally walked down the Souk street, across from Khan el Khalili, with a wooden roof thing at its beginning, that Andrew Mitchell, the Cultural Affairs Officer of the US Embassy, suggested I walk down because he said its the most beautiful street in Cairo and because this guy Heny who makes the most amazing tapestry in the world!

When I did, I found a mosque, at the end, a mosque that I wanted to film at and when Islam and I met, we found the muezzin, Sheikh Mahmoud sitting across the street being sweet and relaxing. He was more closed off than many previous muezzins, but still sweet and natural, and the most interesting thing was that he would not do the adhan outside of the prescribed time...I had many many thoughts about this possibility, and finally it happened!!! So we decided I would come back the next day and give him the microphone to wear during Maghrib....

After that we had an amazing interview with Sheikh Mohamed in Sheikh Abdullah Mosque in Gemileya (across from Arabian Nights), which is all green inside from the green fluorescent lighting! The interview was the best one yet, and his voice was the best one yet! I know, I know, I say this a lot, but really, really, Islam and I both agreed that this man was not only born to do what he is doing but that he is pure magic, pure wonder. His demeanor is that of a teacher, a giving soul, yet he didnt even finish high school and is a volunteer muezzin at the mosque and also functions as an imam there as well. When he demonstrated the adhan for us, we both melted. When we left, we agreed that he was the most wonderful man we had interviewed yet! He was number eight by the way! I hope to get to 10, shouldnt be that hard!

Next day...found a 10 of spades (Islam pointed out that in combination, the cards make up my birthday!!! the universe's way of saying MABRUK=congratulations). Then, I ran into yet another person on the street, Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Shedeed from Al Azhar, who was in fact the man who I was on my way to seeing to find out when we can do an interview....and running late to everything else, naturally! I was looking down, as always, and all of a sudden I hear his voice calling to me. We talked for a few minutes and I kept walking, suddenly on time for my next appointment!

After filming on the bridge with Islam and putting the sexy new OLF Canon 7D in really dangerous situations, I went back to the Souk street just in time for Maghrib and saw who I thought was Sheikh Mahmoud...(yes, this is where it gets funny) at the very beginning of this street next to the Al Ghury Comlex - at the other end of the street from the mosque I met him in, and asked him to put on the microphone...keep in mind, neither of us speak a language that the other can understand, so the conversation about the mic was awkward, but he took it and went into the Al Ghury Mosque after a small altercation with the police (handled only with Islam's help)...and then his son hung out with me, his grandson and their was awesome! I thanked him when he came out and gave me back the microphone and then ran down the street to get the gps coordinates of the mosque we met at!

Lo and im running down the street so I can get back to the hostel and hang out and also pack before going to Sinai, and theres Sheikh Mahmoud!!! WTF!!! This time, hes wearing a different colored gallabiya and he is super happy to see me! weird. He asks me to get a picture of he and I and I take my camera off and hand it to someone who Sheikh Mahmoud calls over (yes, im really confused too) and he takes a picture. cute! and then he invites me over to his place for tea while we wait for Isha to do the recording.

As I look at him and see his shop...I realize he is Heny...the man that Andrew Mitchell told me to meet!!!
oh my god!

Theres so much more. so many days unaccounted for, so many stories untold, so many wonderful beautiful amazing unbelievable things happening for the project and for me personally, its amazing! Cairo is a place where every corner brings something new infinitely no matter how many layers you think you uncover, no matter how much confusion and hard work there is to unveil the treasure, its always worth it. AMAZING!

ALL CONTENT COPYRIGHT (c) Anna Kipervaser, On Look Films, LLC
All Rights Reserved 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

Days with Islam: Double Meaning..and new LOVE

Only have a few days left in Cairo (going to Sinai for few days to work on my painting project) and am only now feeling like things are moving forward! Hilarious, I guess thats how it goes, normally.

So, youre wondering Why? and youre wondering what I mean by Double Meaning. Well, first things first...the why and one of the double meanings is the same: as mentioned in a previous post, my new very good friend Islam is making everything work out. I mean it! He is the cause of the project moving forward. And...also, the other meaning, of course, is the inquiry into the religion of Islam that I am conducting as a natural product of the project. Even with minor glitches in the system, like cloudyness, cold and audio messups, everything is going forward properly! We are meeting muezzins, different ones too! Some are official muezzins, chosen by the Ministry of Awqaf and others are volunteers, while yet others are neither! Some of these guys are highly educated and yet are not willing to talk about specifics of Islam or specifics about the history of the adhan. Those who are not as educated are more willing to discuss these things....

And then there are those that surprise you! You know, me getting into any mosque is a miracle to start with...lets be honest! And then for someone to agree to do an interview with a foreign non-Muslim, unreligious person is also a great great, there was this man, Sheikh Shaaban from Sherif Mosque (on Sherif Street in Downtown. It's at the end of an alleyway filled with shops and across the alley from a coffeeshop, where we ended up doing the interview) who did not want me to enter his mosque, was warning Islam about me and about women, and yet, he was willing to do the interview. Not only was he willing to do the interview, but he spoke so beautifully and passionately about the adhan and about Islam and answered all of the pertinent questions the way I've been hoping someone would!!! It was wonderful. For the first time, I felt no connection to a muezzin, in fact, I was scared it wasnt going to go well, and then, I got EXACTLY what I've been searching for.

The day before this, Islam and I went back to Sultan Hassan Mosque to REinterview Sheikh Ibrahim (the audio was lost as mentioned in a previous post). When we arrived we learned that the official muezzin, Sheikh Said, was there, so we could not do what we planned. Instead we enjoyed an interview with Sheikh Said and got to hear and record his beautiful, beautiful voice! This man was chosen by the Ministry of Awqaf for the quality of his voice, as evident by his articulation, intonation and ability to alter tone, pitch and rhythm mid-breath! Before he was calling people to prayer at Sultan Hassan, he was the muezzin at the Mohammad Ali Mosque (Citadel), both are equally impressive and thats REALLY REALLY impressive.

We are still trying to REinterview Sheikh Ibrahim and hope to do so before I take off to Sinai! Please, please cross your fingers, please. I need your help! The interview we got with him was perfect, he was natural and sweet and photogenic and the lighting was super and he spoke so kindly, he is a great great human. I visited him today in hopes, but no luck today. Please please give me luck. Also, before I go, I need to get an interview with the muezzin from the Sheikh Abdullah Mosque in Gamaliya, across from my hostel, Arabian Nights, and two more interviews with muezzins from mosques in two other areas of town whom we have not yet found or even looked for, please please help!

The other thing I'm hoping for is that Hassan Mustafa (the main character from the short, Voices of Cairo) comes back from his work trip before I leave the country. Not only do I want to continue what we began with the short/trailer, but I also want to see him!!! He is such a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful being!



I am learning so much about the subject matter of our project AND things I have hoped to learn, things I have not expected to learn, and things I only imagined I would learn one day!

One example before bed, ok, ok....I am learning about the structure of choosing muezzins - on the governmental level, the individual mosque level, the community level and the individual level. I am learning about the souls of the Egyptian people, I am learning how my love is expanding and transforming for them and the land. Its interesting; no, its like falling in love: at first you are in awe, you are amazed, everything is perfect about that person, better than anything else in anyone else, better than you deserve, more awesome than yourself and than anything you have ever experienced, at heights never reached before (at least thats my experience in love), and you get to know your loved one, you realize they are just a human being, exactly like yourself!

I am learning this about Cairo, about the people, about how things work, the heartbeat of the city is beating inside of me now!

When you see something at first, you think you see it objectively, rather, I do...and then once I get a closer and more in depth and begin understanding and the perceived mystery, the fog/smog of awe clears, I get to choose to love this time, rather than just falling in love. I think thats where Im at. I have chosen to love Cairo. In every way. In all the ways. And to keep digging, keep learning, keep on truckin, cuz in this place...IN THIS PLACE, really theres so much information in such condensed spaces. Its absurd how much you can learn from just one square meter!


ALL CONTENT COPYRIGHT (c) Anna Kipervaser, On Look Films, LLC

All Rights Reserved 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010


The other day was pure magic and was created by the symbiosis of myself and a wonderful human being whose name coincidentally happens to be Islam!

We filmed and got the most BEAUTIFUL footage EVER at Sultan Hassan Mosque...only to learn after the fact that the audio is LOST. Now, you'll never believe this, but the muezzin, Sheikh Ibrahim, agreed to do it again, ANYTIME! alhamduillAllah!!! Islam and I are going back in a couple days!

Sheikh Ibrahim, Sultan Hassan Mosque

And then right before Maghrib, as the sun was ending its journey through our visible sky, on a whim, we walked into Mahmoudeyah Mosque and magically met the muezzin, Sheikh Mohammed, a sweet older man who has been the muezzin there for 20 years!!! Some beautiful footage from here as well! All audio is safe and sound!

Sheikh Mohammed, Mahmoudeya Mosque TOP it off after Islam and I parted, I thought I would go see some whirling dervishes, but before that I wanted to just walk the streets for a while, just wander, and I ended up stopping in the street when the Isha adhan began, and recording the nearest mosque, against whose wall I was leaning. After the adhan, I asked the man inside the name of the mosque and when he saw my list and realized they were all mosques, he asked if I wanted to go up to the minaret!!! AMAZING DAY!
Minaret of Serri Ghatmaash Mosque

many more to come

ALL CONTENT COPYRIGHT (c) Anna Kipervaser, On Look Films, LLC
All Rights Reserved 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

I could....

I could tell you about the project, I could tell you about the amazing breakthroughs that have been happening in the last two days, but something really important happened today!

Thanks to my old friend Shawn Mercer introducing me to my new friend Islam Khaled, who has also become the project's lucky charm (more on that in the next post), I just saw THE most important futbol (soccer) match! Egypt 4, Algeria 0!!!

If you could see the Cairo streets, you wouldn't believe it. Everyone has been celebrating for the last three hours. I'm on the 9th floor and I can hear them still rooting, shouting, singing, whistling, drumming, honking, setting off fireworks, and plain old being ecstatic! Everyone has an Egyptian flag or is painted up in the colors of the flag or is wearing a jersey or something!!! There are people on cars, trucks, riding them like horses, there are people on buildings, in the road, on the sidewalks, literally everywhere, people dancing, people smiling, people people LOVING everything because this match meant EVERYTHING!!! so here's some photos:

ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT (c) Anna Kipervaser, On Look Films, LLC All Rights Reserved 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cold, Cloudy, Cairo Reality = a post for the Commies (yes...two posts in one day)

Woke up before the sun, in the land of the sun, and here I am...wearing sunglasses at night in my hostel dorm room as the fluorescent light attacks my eyes after a full day of cloudy skies and frozen toes as the Cairene streets turn mad with magical honking in the tune of celebration as Egypt just won a soccer match against Cameroon, putting them in the semifinals!!!

Spent much of the day outside many stories above ground feeling like a perched two different locations, both of them equally as cold.


ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT (c) Anna Kipervaser, On Look Films, LLC All Rights Reserved 2010


The last few days have been tough. A variety of reasons, a variety of seasons, but alas, some magic has happened, progress has been made and time keeps on moving, so why the hell am I going to stop.

The last few days in a nutshell: meeting amazing people from all over the world with all sorts of stories, having a brilliant time, learning a ton and still I can't seem to fully shake whatever cold/flu-like symptoms I have, am coming up against blocks due to limited permits, the interpreter is at least one hour late every time, the weather in this region is being awkward: floods in Sinai and rain in Cairo, but all of that is small bananas...cuz worst of all: I am not getting straight answers out of anyone about the unification. Everyone I talk to says something different. Someone said yesterday, "In Cairo, you ask seven people the same question and take the average!" I agree to some extent, but from official sources I am hearing suche a wide range of answers; people are saying, "yes, it was in the newspaper last week, they are moving forward NOW" and then another, "oh yeah, we have been talking about this for years! Its Cairo, you know!" and yet another, "yes, we have everything set in place and its on the way sometime this year." It is even more vast, but that is just the gist. So, I am stopping by the Ministry of Religious Endownments again today, maybe meet with the nice man we met with in August and ask him without sounding too interested what the plan is!

I feel like I'm running out of time here although I have only been here 15 days. Such a strange feeling. Will it feel like a whole lifetime once I'm on the plane?

Ok, enough logistics, please check out the pictures below of some of the characters of Cairo. For this post, I have chosen one muezzin and one artist and craftworker.

This is Ruby, the most kind hearted man on the planet. He is a sculptor living and working in Sayeda Isha, just two buildings down from the Al-Ghuri Mosque, where Hassan Mustafa, the lead character in Voices of Cairo, is one of the muezzins calling people to prayer. Robbie prides himself on working in the pharoanic style. Much of his work sells wholesale to bazaars all over the world. He has been carving stone for over forty years! Some of the work is strictly for tourists and some for the connoiseur, while other work is for everyday use by the everyday person. I met him in my first few days here, he granted me asylum next to him and let me shoot from his perch. We didn't understand one another in language, but we loved each other in spirit. I came back yesterday with Anadha, who helped me speak to Ruby, and we filmed him a touch and hung out with him and his cat Mish Mish. He is absolutely AMAZING.

and then on the other side of town.......

This is Sayed. He is a muezzin at a mosque in Ma'adi. An older man, cross-eyed and sweet, he giggles and recites the adhan for us. He began calling people to prayer in Saudi Arabia many many years ago. If my memory isn't failing me, Sayed has three children, all girls and a wonderful wonderful wife. He was the most willing and open character I have personally worked with thus far! Super great!

ALL CONTENT AND PHOTOS COPYRIGHT (c) Anna Kipervaser, On Look Films, LLC
All Rights Reserved 2010