​The Call of Cairo: An Artist Talk

Anna Kipervaser is a Ukrainian-born multimedia artist. Her work spans multiple disciplines including experimental and documentary moving image works in both 16mm film and HD video. Anna is also painter, printmaker, curator of exhibitions and programmer of screenings showcasing the works of contemporary international artists. Anna founded Manual Productions, a mobile artist space in 2003, organizing exhibitions nationally.

In 2008, she founded On Look Films with Rodion Galperin as their first feature documentary film, CAIRO IN ONE BREATH, was taking form; CAIRO IN ONE BREATH premiered at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April 2015. Anna’s work has been recognized through awards from Hartley Film Foundation, National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project, Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund, Carnegie Foundation, George Sugarman Foundation, New York Studio Program, Wilder Traveling Scholarship, and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. Her moving image work has also screened at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Athens International Film and Video Festival, Indie Grits Film Festival, Montreal Underground Film Festival, Haverhill Experimental Film Festival, and 12Gates Video Art Fest. She holds a BFA from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Class 2003. As of May 2015, Anna holds a Graduate Certificate in Middle East Studies, and, an MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University.

It happened to be Ramadan when On Look Films took their first production trip to Cairo in August of 2009. They were beginning to work on their feature documentary film Cairo in One Breath which had its world premiere at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in 2015. Over the course of these several years, the On Look Films team has been documenting the transformation of the 1,400 year-old tradition of the adhan as a government plan to systemize the call to prayer was being implemented. The Adhan Unification Project proposed to replace the thousands of individual muezzins who had been reciting the adhan five times each day with a single muezzin’s voice broadcast live from a central radio station to wireless receivers installed in all of Cairo’s officially recognized mosques. As the AUP took hold, Egypt underwent Revolution and regime change, and On Look Films kept filming. Cairo in One Breath follows muezzins from when they first heard rumors of plans to install wireless receivers through two years after implementation of the AUP, which has displaced thousands of employees and volunteers. Now, most mosques have receivers installed, though political changes have halted inspection and maintenance.

This selection of photographs is an introduction to some of the film’s characters and their lives, taken between 2009 and 2014 by Anna Kipervaser, David Degner, Jeremy Johnson, and Meredith Zielke, and edited by Rodion Galperin. Kipervaser’s event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.