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SAMA AT BAR
Two filmmakers (Sama Waly and Rodrigo Brum) investigate events that led Egyptian state authorities to demolish the old village of Gourna, built sometime between the sixteenth and eighteenth century on the western bank of the Nile, across from the city of Luxor, above the ancient city of Thebes. Seven thousand Gournese have been relocated to a public housing project, accused of having built their homes atop the ancient tombs on the Theban Necropolis, and subsequently making tomb-raiding an age-old tradition. It has taken the government over a century to free the land for archeological research. An earlier effort to do so, following a scandalous theft of an entire rock carving in 1945, led the Department of Antiquities to commission Hassan Fathy—who would later become Egypt’s most famous architect—to build a model village, to lure the villagers into new modern homes. Fathy is famous as a pioneer in sustainable building and developed a philosophy of “appropriate technology” to resolve the housing crisis in Upper Egypt. A few months into building, Fathy’s new village flooded and the project halted. The villagers for whom Fathy dreamt to build a better life refused to move and his utopian village remains incomplete to this day. Today, seventy years later, the architect Tarek Waly, a former disciple of Hassan Fathy, dreams of rehabilitating Fathy’s village. Amidst the violent political turmoil in Egypt, the film follows Tarek from Cairo to Luxor as he views vernacular architectural heritage in terms of its poignant deterioration.

New Gourna, Luxor, Egypt, ca. 1950. Courtesy of Hassan Fathy Archives, Rare Books and Special Collections Library, American University in Cairo.

New Gourna, Luxor, Egypt, ca. 1950. Courtesy of Hassan Fathy Archives, Rare Books and Special Collections Library, American University in Cairo.

Sama Waly
Dates of residency:
 July - August
Born: 1990
Lives and works: Cairo, Egypt
URL: 
Education: MFA in film and video, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Statement: 
Sama Waly lives and works in Cairo. She received her MFA in Film, Video, New Media and Animation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently directing a short film “Sorry, No Soy Fidel”, as well as her ongoing project, “She wrote, and even skies and mountains too die alone”. Her first feature-length documentary “My Father Looks Like Hassan Fathy” received the Graham Foundation grant (2019) for development and presentation. Since 2011, she has exhibited and published her work in Cairo, Chicago, and internationally.