The film Stairway to Heaven is an ongoing work that began in the context of my exhibition the Loudspeaker and the Tower. The film considers new mosque building in Cairo and presents the viewer with the spectrum of unusual forms and mixed-use typologies - residential/mosque, factory/mosque, train-station/mosque that currently exist in the city today. It reveals the logics behind the construction of these mixed-use mosques which can be built for motives as diverse as memorialization, charity or tax evasion. The construction of a mosque can also be a form of land-grab as those hoping to build illegally on agricultural fields use mosque-foundations as initial territorial markers, in a context where affordable housing is not otherwise provided for by the State. Once constructed, to avoid social discontent, it is impossible for the state to tear them down. In this way, the film marks this tension and considers the acronymity of what is considered sustainable development. Stairway to Heaven includes interviews with different stakeholders from architects, to builders, farmers, mini-contractors and real-estate agents, Azhar and informal imams..
A voice emitted from a height unites parishioners - mosques becoming spaces that host in and around their physical structures, bodies gathered collectively, performing ritual choreographies. As a vocal entity located in public space, mosques can act as a relay of state-sanctioned ideologies or they can produce discourses that challenge established narratives. In other words, mosques can locate themselves in relation to established power in an arch that goes from submission to autonomy. Using the mosque as a starting point, the films also examines the apparatus of the minaret as a vertical symbol of power and a horizontal multiplier of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic narratives. Recognizing their threat, the state continually expends efforts to control their production and operation. If these efforts are palpable in the sonic broadcast from their minarets, they are almost invisible in the visual realm. Minarets articulate the voice of amorphous counterpublics that are fragmented and eclectic, resonating in material, acoustic, spiritual loops on highways and sidewalks in the periphery of the city. First Cut -- Directed and produced by Manar Moursi. DOP: Islam Kamal. Sound: Sameh Nabil. Camerawork: Ahmed Khalaf, Ehab Abdo, Manar Moursi and Islam Kamal. Interview Assistant: Amal Rifaat. Edited by Louly Seif. Working now on a second cut. Supported by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario and Toronto Arts Councils and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture.