Saturday, April 8, 2023 at 7:30pm
Borhane Alaouié's It Is Not Enough for God to Be with the Poor

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

Introduced by Hicham Awad

It Is Not Enough for God to Be with the Poor, Borhane Alaouié, 1978, digital projection, 74 mins

In Lebanese filmmaker Borhane Alaouié’s It Is Not Enough for God to Be with the Poor, we first see Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy (1900-89) donning a hooded North African cloak, his back turned to the camera. On the roof of the Ali Labib house in Cairo (now the Egyptian House of Architecture), where he resided for many years, Fathy presides, mage-like, over the capital beneath him. From beyond the frame, the voice of a man, possibly Alaouié himself, summons the architect to face the camera: “Hassan Fathy, who are you?”

At first glance, It Is Not Enough for God to Be with the Poor, a portrait of Fathy and his work in Egypt, seems to be entirely steered by the figure variously dubbed as “the architect of the poor“ or “the Middle East’s father of sustainable architecture.” His work appears to be a kind of architectural analogue of Alaouié’s films. Fathy objected to the importation of the International Style into the Arab World and, instead, advocated for the use of local construction materials—namely mud-brick, widely used by the architect for its economical and symbolic virtues—and masonry skills. Alaouié, for his part, fashioned what critic Serge Daney called “a cinema of geographical anchoring,” a militant cinema that is specific rather than total, where politics and warfare shape conflicts that are territorial and romantic in equal measure.

Alaouié’s film, however, with its indignant, blasphemous title, also reveals a certain unease with its subject, the architect of projects such as the controversial New Gourna, a planned settlement to relocate (in part by force) villagers accused by the government of robbing ancient tombs. A stunning sequence pans across the walls of the Ibn Tulun Mosque, consecrated in 884 and greatly admired by Fathy, but seldom frequented by the faithful. Alaouié cuts to shots of a late-19th-century mosque, an “imitation…in bad taste.” But the bird’s-eye-view shots and pointillist soundtrack, seeping into general and intimate scenes of amplified prayer, crowd, and traffic distillate a landscape as mesmeric as that of the Nile and its banks. “The faithful arrive in masses and aren’t bothered by aesthetics.”

- HA

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm. No entry 10 minutes after start of show.