Out in the Street: The materiality of ruination


Today I saw the hyper documentary film “Out in the Street”, which is showing in Zawia for only one week starting the the 13th of January. The Movie is a result of an acting workshop in which the ex-worker of a privatized-sold and now demolished factory participate, narrate and perform their  encounters with management, strikes, random police round ups and abuse.


Yet this description doesn’t do it justice. Instead of being an observer of a process of the narration or the workshop; you are invited inside a theatrical experience of enactment, a performativity of neoliberal dispossession, and to oscillate between the ruinous space of production in Helwan and the creative space of performance in Downtown, without the pretension to  collapse the two.

Anyways, I am not a movie critic and I would definitively leave reviewing the movie to those who are better equipped to do that, but here are my very quick reactions.

Primarily, I was captivated by the overwhelming presence of the materiality of ruination  Something I am interested in in my PhD and thus could not help but notice (that would be following the interesting  work of Stoler, Gordillo, and Edensor among others )

The movie opens up with images of rubble of cement and steel and the heavy debris of an abandoned factory. A couple of years ago I had a similar experience in the Brewery next to Cairo University and watching the movie I could remember the traces of silence in what was once a busy place. Throughout the movie there will be scenes of caterpillars engaged actively in a “project of demolition”. The term “project of demolition” is one I borrow from an actual yellow sign that stands in the place of the now -gone NDP building. Within the movie you see a recollection of the process of destruction,heaps and rubble of cement blocks and precious steel rods gathered and straightened to be resold. A factory disassembled to its material components.

The materiality of destruction will meet you again during the movie- which ironically happens within an imagined factory set. During the movie some shots will follow the workers/performers/actors as they reminiscent about January the 28th and the burning of the police stations, a conversation evolves on whether they thought burning the stations was an effective move, whether it would bring their rights, whether one can obtain their rights from the wall “حقي مش حاخده من الحيطة”. I am quite intrigued by the correspondence between immolation and demolition of buildings, of walls as bearer of rights, of witness of rights, walls that are whitewashed and inscribed on, which are burnt, purged, scratched or hurt.

It is the buildings that are being privatized and sold that are lamented on in the end of the movie, one worker/actor says may be all that will remain are the ministerial buildings, may be they will sell those too, it is a people of peasants who do not know what they do.It is the empty building that doesn’t resonate with the sound of the machine, sounds  that the actors performed in the beginning of the movie, but rather echoes with the voice of the manager as he calls on security personnel, the last to eventually leave the factory building which they occupied almost its half.

Undoubtedly the movie speaks of a myriad of different things, among them the rhythms of reminiscence of ruinous space brought to me the most food for thought of neoliberalism as material and affective ruination of spaces.

Out On The Street Teaser المقطع التشويقي لفيلم برة في الشارع from Out on the Street برة في ا on Vimeo.