What Comes Around
A testament to the power of community organisation
‘One big family’ is how Um Ghareeb describes her ‘al Gami’ya’ community in one of Cairo’s poorest districts. Driven by the women who rule the roost, all members regularly contribute a small amount of money into a pot. At weekly meetings, a collective decision is made as to how to share it. Reem Saleh spent six years following this colourful community, revealing their daily struggle for survival and touching solidarity in an inhospitable world.
“We are wretched here, we are living below the poverty line.” In spite of Umm’s bleak words, an astonishing community spirit reigns in Rod el Farag. Its inhabitants find peace and happiness in those around them, and in the little food and resources they have to survive. Though Nagwa divorces her husband and is left to fend for their baby boy alone, she finds all the strength she needs in her son: “He fills me with so much light and beauty”.
In contrast to the capitalist mentality that governs the Western world, the humility and wisdom of Umm and her inspiring people have many lessons to teach the rest of the world: “Poverty isn’t a lack of money, but a lack of soul. As long as I eat and drink, and my loved ones and my family are fine, I’m fine too.”
Rather than each individual or family fighting to survive independently, Rod el Farag is marked by the unions its people have created in order to support one another. “Every Friday, I pay thirty pounds, and I get 500 pounds in return”, explains Umm. “In the slums when you are in need people form a union to help. When I get my union share, 400 or 500 pounds, I buy groceries. And I am so happy to have all that money.”
Young Dunia, a fiery girl who can frequently be found leading a swarm of shouting children through the streets, uses her share of the union’s money to undergo the life-threatening operation of female genital mutilation. In this life where she has next to nothing, the right to make decisions about her own body is the ultimate step towards freedom, purposely disobeying her father’s wishes. Her actions cause him to walk out on her and her mother for good.
As relationships come and go, couples divorce and re-marry and new children are born, Umm and her fellow citizens plod on. Through all the hardship, occasional weddings light up the district, as streets are decked out with spangled silver drapes and bejewelled fringing that glimmers from trestles, while laughter and dancing fills the streets.
But the daily grind must go on. When Umm’s husband Adel suddenly falls ill, he divorces her and casts her out of the house with their children, obliterating 28 years of marriage in a moment. Nagwa makes up with her husband three times, having two more children, before Islamic Law prevents the thrice-divorced couple from reuniting again. Dunia abandons school, deciding instead to help her mother run the shop that provides their small income, forever waiting for her father to return. In spite of everything, What Comes Around presents a unique community who somehow find light in the darkest of corners.
Reviews and More
“Saleh presents a raw account of daily hardship in one of the most overpopulated capital in the world.” – Cinevue
“A smart, unconventional film... and the cinematography is quietly stunning.” – Awards Watch
Berlinale - Official Selection
Vancouver IFF - Official Selection
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival - Official Selection