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

Sunday, January 17, 2010

People of Cairo AND (in addition: Coincidences)

This is Ali, he works at Amr Ibn el-Aas. We developed a sweet wordless friendship over the last few days. I randomly offered him my last cigarette the other day (he didn't ask and was simply walking in the same direction as me. I had no idea at the time that he worked at Amr). Today, I watched him blow his neon green whistle when people pulled up trying to park in front of the mosque, telling them to park elsewhere but to come in. I also watched him stand up from his perch every time tourists walked out of the mosque to ask them for money or cigarettes. All the while we smiled at each other and shook hands. He sat next to me for a very long time too. Lovingly.

man oh man...the people of Cairo...but before that, let us return once again to coincidences:

So, I didn't mention, not sure why or how, who I am currently staying with: Tata Manahatta! I know I know...Anna is that supposed to mean something to me? Actually, yes! When Director Miguel Silveira, Line Producer Jeremy Johnson and I were in Cairo in August, the last night in town we went back to the camera shop that was holding Jeremy's camera hostage to threaten them and to get it back at all costs - we asked them to fix it on our second day in town, and every day they promised it would be dont the next day, and well, although in Cairo things do take quite a bit longer than expected and forewarned, this was absurd! When we arrived at the prescribed time, something like 8pm, it was not there - still at the engineers place, we were told. So we waited and paced and got angry and bit our nails.

After standing there for a while, we decided it would be best to go sit and drink a cup of coffee while we wait and go and check in on them every 30 minutes. So we sat down at a cafe from which we could see the camera shop and Miguel could see the TV on which there was a soccer match! Miguel got audibly really into it and Jeremy was quiet, bit his nails, got pale and smoked many cigarettes. I sat there facing the two of them, with my back to the TV, photographing them and marvelling at the phenomenon of their being in totally different head spaces while in the same physical geographic location.

All of a sudden - it mustve been a commercial - Miguel says, "is that a hostel, hotel or something...theres people coming out of it?!" I turn around and say, "probably, you should ask. "Nah..." ....then he says again "a hostel/hotel up there?" and I repeat as well....this time laughing. Next he says, "Look! NO...I swear, that guy, that guy, he is Brazilian!!!" I say, "just ask, Miga" He refuses, we laugh, the game comes back on. More people join the guy Miguel was referring to and he then bets me that the guy is Brazilian just like him. ---now you have to understand, there are two things dear to Brazilians: soccer, I mean Futball, and other Brazilians. ok? ---- so I give up on trying to get him to ask, and do the standard insane social Anna thing and I turn to look at the now large group of people, and I say, " that a hotel?" "Yeah, theres a hostel and a hotel up there"..."ok, thanks!...where are you guys from?" a dark blonde girl says, "we are from all over" the guy in question says, "I'm from Brazil" Miguel stands up, throws his hands in the air and they embrace like crazy people!!! the darke blonde girl says, "I'm from Ukraine" I stand up, throw my hands in the air and say, "NO!!! I am!" we look at each other crazy style and discover that we are from the SAME city...and also the SAME street! NO WAY!!! so we embrace and talk like crazy people. The rest of the group was from Austria, Egypt, and I think thats it...but I can't remember, I was busy embracing. Jeremy is from Kansas but there was noone there from Kansas that I know of. So anyways, Tata is the girl from my street, city, country! and she lives here, and I'm staying with her and her friend Gaby who is from Austria. They also have a friend named Noora who stays with them for part of the week. She is from Italy...yes an international apartment!

The funny thing here is that not only is this whole thing one big mess of coincidences weaving webs around one another, family's entire immigration exists physically in the same flat; we immigrated from Ukraine through Austria, Italy and finally to the US.

Before we move on to the people of Cairo, I wanted to say something about Istanbul and the people of that town. I was only there for 18 hours or so, and I didnt get into Hagia Sophia, the only thing I wanted, because it was closed, but magic happened anyways. I wandered, filmed the Blue Mosque, ran around, met people, got harrassed, asked for a kiss, went to a Hammam, the one our LA Liason Jen Reinhardt recommended, and then in the middle of the night I felt really hungry, totally unsafe, still a little sick and really really tired.

I never feel unsafe. So I knew this was for real. As one of the grants we are applying for was not finished yet, I needed to find an internet cafe that was open all night, so I could work until the Fajr prayer when I planned to record the adhan from the Blue Mosque.

I asked people on the street and instead of answers I got offers of places to stay...with them, that is, not a big deal, but it wasnt helping me find an internet cafe. So, finally I had a bright idea to go into this hotel and ask the receptionist if they knew where there was an internet cafe - because naturally, they would know and be helpful.

The man at the desk was really sweet. So sweet that he offered I sit in the lobby and work. For nothing. I asked if their restaurant was still open and he said no. Whatever, I thought, all I really needed was to work on shit. I had Emergen-C and a packet of seaweed my mom gave me before I left.

I sat and worked for a couple hours when the sweet man came over and gave me a chocolate bar. He saw that I was fading, fading bad. In fact, I had just thought about asking how much a room was so I could pass out for an hour, even though I knew that it was a bad idea because I had to be back at the airport by 9:30am. We drank tea and coffee together and began to talk. This was one of those times where you become fast friends with someone and develop a true heart connection so fast it surprises you and makes you believe in the human race.

I showed him the trailer, we talked about the project, about life - personal things, religious things, spiritual things, worldly things, we went deep! - about geography, about Istanbul, about travel, family, work, hardships, joys, everything! And I was really sad to leave when I left. These moments are precious. Really really precious and special. Erkut and I will meet up when I pass back through on the way back to Chicago. I CAN'T WAIT! We were both so moved by our friendship that we have been corresponding since and so so sweetly! I love life. By the way, he was moved so much by the project, that he donated the next day. How wonderful. Seriously. Such a magical experience, I mean...who does that? Really!!?? This project, this life, it is so magical.


OK...the people of Cairo. I just have to say, they are amazing! yes! amazing. thats all. The following will be a story about part of my day today, but imagine, it's like this ALL the time. Every day, every second, living and breathing this:

So, today I returned to Old Cairo - also known as Masr el Qadima or Coptic Cairo, to film the streets, the people, and meet the new Sheikh at Amr Ibn el-Aas mosque. Anadha got held up doing some work so I had more time to run around and watch people and film people going in and out of the mosque. In my wanderings through the small sandy rocky villagy streets I got really hungry! Stopping at a koshk (kiosk, stand - akin to a hot dog stand in the US), I asked for a koshary. Ok, so the best koshary in town is across the main street in the other tiny village, but I was hungry THEN! I was planning on taking it to go and walking around some more, but the man insisted I sit down. He found me a chair and a small table and gave me koshary. and water. AND he shooed the kids away that were trying to talk to a foreign girl.

And let me tell you, he and I didnt speak a word of the same language. I ate, drank, filmed and basked in the sun. When I finished he asked me if I wanted some tea. I said "Aiwa, Shukran gazeelan!" (Oh yes, thank you very much!) and he went across the way to grab it. With more water! When I finished, I got up to pay and go....imagine this: he would not let me! AT ALL!!! I tried so hard. There were kids and men and women all around and everyone smiled and agreed with him. He told me that I am his guest and there is no way I am paying. He pointed at a man across the way who took care of my tea and I thanked him profusely too. MY HEART MELTED! again. and again. and again. All day like this. All day. No matter how tough filming is while people try to talk to you, get in the shot, stop you, ask you for things, its all worth it, because you find people like this. Amazing. absolutely!

There are so many highlights, so many. I just love these people. and sometimes, well, most times, I wish there was a camera built into my eyes.

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

All Rights Reserved 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

art + artists

This picture was taken at Amr Ibn el-Aas mosque in Old Cairo, the oldest mosque in all of Africa, first mosque in Egypt, a mosque that plays a central role in our project. I took this picture yesterday.

Three years ago, my first time in Cairo, I met some amazing people through art with whom I have stayed in touch and developed amazing friendships with, and we have gotten to watch each other develop and grow personally and creatively, for which I am very grateful. Being with them again is really inspiring and head clearing.

Shortly after that trip is when the seeds for this project began to sprout and after having searched for other artists in Cairo, I came upon several that were quite established and inspiring, one of whom I met for the first time in person today. The story goes like this...I was applying for the Fulbright with this project in its audio/installation phase and was looking for inspiration and help. I was looking for someone to write me a letter of affiliation, but not just any letter, I wanted someone AMAZING!!! and through this a great friendship developed between myself and Khaled Hafez ( When Director Miguel Silveira and Line Producer Jeremy Johnson and I were here in August, I was super excited to meet Khaled and see his work in person. Turned out that right when we would be here, in Cairo, he would be there, in the US, at an artists residency!!! Of course! So, today...TODAY!!! we finally met. I saw his work in person, I saw his videos, I met his friends and colleagues, we listened to music, talked about art, laughed, talked shit, and discussed life and what really matters to us as humans, as artists, as international collaborators, as creators!!! after seeing his studio and the energy there and his work and the work of Ahmed el Shaer ( a great idea was born - to curate a Cairene film/video art screening in Chicago. It will be a brilliant brilliant fiasco! I cant wait.

Khaled and I discussed my filming in his studio and will insha'Allah make it happen on Monday. I really am so happy to finally meet him and to work with him. I hope to come back to Cairo soon and live and work here and be able to collaborate creatively in real time for a long period of time with Khaled as our work is also quite connected, check out my paintings to see why (

After leaving Khaled's studio, I filmed a little bit in Said Aisha (where Hassan's mosque, Sultan al-Ghuri, the trailer to see who he is!!! at sunset, then I headed over to this great place downtown, Kunst Gallery Cafe, from where I posted last time and where I can sit and enjoy coffee, music, cigarettes and work while having a great time. On the way here, I heard the 'Isha adhan and as I got closer to the cafe, I heard one deep, robust, rich and creamy voice from around the area...I have been searching for a mosque deep within the labyrinth of this city that is just inside of an alley or a small street, not gorgeous or ugly, just something that is necessary, and I hadnt yet found anything because I either get stopped and then I engage in conversation, or because I have been too busy running around getting footage and meeting with people, or because my lack of Arabic prevents me from being successful in landing an interview or even an audio recording, because I vowed to also work on the audio portion of the project while here. Today, though, I think I was so inspired that I didn't care.

So, I followed the voice. First, down one alley, then another, past some shops and finally across the way from a small cafe where people smoke sheesha (hookah tobacco) and drink shai (tea) and qahwah (coffee) from small glass cups while sitting in wooden chairs, I saw some shoes, and then people taking their shoes off and going in to a fluorescent lit space. Upon gazing inside, it was definitely a mosque and it was just what I had been looking for. I asked some men sitting at the cafe, in my really broken Arabic, what the name of the muezzin was and finally one of them asked me in English what it was that I needed! ehehe. I told him, he asked someone else, and so on...then he asked me why, and told me I could just go in and pray and meet him. Youre asking yourself...Anna, why are you not filming this? well, the answer is..because I was out of space on the CF card and also because I do not want to sacrifice a relationship with a muezzin by gathering content on the fist meeting, especially when I don't speak the language and dont know when I am inappropriate because I can't understand whats being said!

So, the sweet stout moustached man went inside to pray and came out with the muezzin after!!! none of us really understood one another, but the muezzin, Gamal Idin Sayed immediately asked me for a mic, and he first played an adhan from Medinah on someone else's cell phone and held it up to the microphone, and then....then...then he faced Mecca and performed the adhan into the mic. He was super sweet, older, wonderful, and really giving. He has 23 grandchildren. 23!!! we laughed so much. Alhamduill'Allah I understand numbers! and he has 11 children, 9 daughters and 2 sons. He has been calling people to pray for 30 years!!! This man amazed me a lot, I really look forward to meeting with him again and filming because his story is kind of amazing, I mean, he doesnt only call at this mosque, the Taqwa mosque, but also at other mosques throughout Cairo. He performs the 'Asr adhan and 'Isha adhan here and the other three at three other mosques. EVERY DAY!!!! I love him.

Yesterday was also amazing. So much happened that will propel this trip in the right direction and hopefully the whole project! I want to tell you everything about yesterday, but if I do, you will be reading a long long book and I will never get to sleep or see my friends or transfer video, upload photos and sound and marry the GPS data with the footage and photos and audio. Yeah, I know, who cares, just tell us everything Anna...ha!

Can't wait to be here with the whole team. It will be really amazing to see what magic happens when we are all together!

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coincidences, Magic, Cairo ...and President Hosni Deniro Mumbarak

Third time in, it feels just like home. Really. And President Hosni Mumbarak still looks like Robert Deniro

It's been a few days since I've been here and honestly, it's a little harder than I imagined to do everything we planned all by myself, alas it is wonderful to have such a great network of people helping out. It does take a second to settle in. It takes more than a second to realize it's a bad idea to apply for funding from a giant source while on the road...I mean, sleep is not really necessary, but when shooting and researching becomes impossible because a deadline is coming up, it's kind of absurd. Finally done, though!

So, moving forward, I would like to mention that every time I come back here, I get to know Cairo a different way, and new blessings and new obstacles come up, quite interesting, might I say. Right now I'm sitting in a place called Cafe Kunst Gallery, writing, after a day of a lot of running around and a little bit of shooting. The thing with Cairo is that if you declare what you want, you'll get it within moments, and then there is the opposite: when you wake up in the morning and have a vague idea of whats necessary and then it takes all day to get a vague representation of your vague idea of what had to get done! Pretty great, teaches you to be focused at all times FAST!

It is true that the first few days in Cairo are a simulation of unmaking scrambled eggs! HA! The act on rewind, I guess! It has apparently become an On Look Films tradition to loose a lens cap the first day in town and to also botch a photo session within the first few hours off the plane! An amazing moment happened (journalistically) between a cat and a fog crow - and I LLLLLLOVE both - and I thought I captured all of it, but really...not so much, in the middle of all the excitement I somehow changed a setting...and I refused to let the cat hurt the bird, so I stopped my monkey reflex, as our director Miguel Silveira calls it, and turned the camera off to chase the cat away! But thats neither here nor there! So, I have given into the unknowing and now that it has been a full three days, I know that I can begin work FULLY and not be stopped, because Cairo and I have now completed our negotiations, bombs away...I mean...!

I have learned so much in such a short period of time and don't know who or what I will be when I leave here.

Below is a list of what I have learned:

my predisposition for coincidences no matter where or what!

1. Before I left Chicago, Yoni Goldstein, one of our DPs introduced me to Amira, a friend who would be in Cairo when I am! and we literally...literally...ran into each other DOWNTOWN Cairo. HILARIOUS!!!

2. Baxter Jackson, a new liason and hopefully member of the groundcrew who is currently in Oman and I hope to go meet for a couple days and Dr. Kristina Nelson, an amazing woman and scholar based in Cairo who Dr. Shakeela Hassan introduced me to used to live in the same building!

3. Dr. Kristina Nelson knows Dr. Muhammad Eissa, based in Chicago AND Ahmed Rasheed, based in Cairo and our Line Producer!!!

Conclusion: Small world no matter how big the city! (and this is only a taste!)

more later, on my way to make things happen!Can't wait to share full production stuff with everyone.

It's only going to get better! REALLY!!!! (pictures will be included in next post!)

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