‘Living Skin’ is the first feature documentary for young director Fawzi Saleh that has received a Special Mention with a monetary reward at the fourth Abu Dhabi Film Festival last month.
It tells the story of a group of boys with ages ranging from 12-17 years who are stuck in the leather tanneries of Cairo facing the destiny of their fathers without an outlook on a different future or a perspective. Throughout the film we are exposed to the tough and inhumane living conditions the tannery residents are struggling with as well as the extremely high level of child labor that is as scary as ever. Apart from the horrendous health hazards the children face, such as toxins, burning acids and heavy machinery injuries, all these boys suffer from their family’s living condition, poverty and lack of education. All of these combined make them easy targets for random police violence and injustice marginalizing their existence in the Egyptian society. “By describing the inhabitants of this place as heroes I try to give them the tribute they deserve, for they are forgotten and marginalized behind the fence of the tanneries. Albeit their economic situation, they manage not to lose their humanity through love and friendships and to maintain a certain respect of life and the pleasures life is offering them, such as dancing, singing and giving birth”, he continues.
Fawzi Saleh studied film at the High Institute for Cinema, has been active volunteering for human rights NGOs and landed himself several jobs in the industry as executive producer, director assistant and script supervisor for different productions. ‘Living Skin’ is his first long film right after the four minute experimental film ‘Moccha’. His wife Eman Hemeida was the executive producer, while the legendary Mahmoud Hemeida thankfully encouraged the young filmmaker’s dream and produced the film, as Hemeida is known to foster and invest in new talents.
“When I moved to Cairo to study I used to live close to the tanneries and it got me curious to know how they live. I made friends with them. In this particular case, child labor in the tanneries notonly deprives these children of their childhood, but moreover it exposes them to serious health risks and even death due to the dangerous chemicals with which they are forced to deal. Therefore, I’m trying to find the reasons that force those children into child labor”, he explains after the screening.
“‘Living Skin’ is my first long film experience. Through this film I hope to open new opportunities for the financing of similar projects, knowing that similar issues are not easily produced in the Egyptian market. Needless to say, the Egyptian government is not in favor of exposure of the results of its policies”, he adds.
The tanneries are located in the heart of Cairo, behind “Magra al Oyoun” (The old city wall) and it is a great shame that we drive by it daily without knowing how these fellow Egyptians suffer and live. Child labor has to stop, old fashioned leather tannery has to stop and people need to wake up and start doing something. Watch out for more projects of Fawzy Saleh soon.