Wael Shawky
Cabaret Crusades, The Path to Cairo
Co-presented by MOCCA and the 26th Images Festival
Apr 11, 2013 - Apr 21, 2013

Wael Shawky’s Cabaret Crusades, The Path to Cairo is a riveting and
affecting restaging of history. Based on Amin Maalouf’s 1983 book
The Crusades through Arab Eyes, the video looks at the history of the
crusades from a non-European point of view.

Using accounts from Arab writers at the time of the crusades and
with a “cast” of 120 individually crafted ceramic puppets, Shawky
effects a collision of traditions. The puppets were made according to
classic Provençal techniques, and the film was shot in the South of
France in a Christian church, but the story being told is on an epic scale,
with episodes spanning from the end of the first crusade in 1099 to the
start of the second almost 50 years later. The use of puppets in the
chronicling of a history of violence, betrayal and intrigue makes the
tales told here intimate and mysterious, but also keeps us at a
distance. There is no attempt to create any illusion of realism or to hide
the strings that manipulate the characters. Rather, the web of strings
refer back to the structural powers that manipulate history, beyond the
control of individuals. Princes, kings, clerics and military men strive for,
gain and lose power in a seemingly endless cycle. But watching these
power struggles from a time gone by brings us as much into the
present as the past, and makes us reflect on how little has changed in
the last 1,000 years.