Sunday, September 25, 2011

"The Hidden Waters of Fez" ~ How you can help!

And the water... following its countless courses behind the partitions of earth and stone. Seldom visible but nearly always present, it rushed beneath the sloping alleyways, here gurgled, here merely dripped, here beyond the wall of a garden splashed or dribbled in the form of a fountain, here fell with a high hollow noise into an invisible cistern, here all at once was unabashedly a branch of the river roaring over the rocks (so that sometimes the cold vapor rising was carried over the wall by the wind and wet his face), here by the bakery had been dammed and was almost still, a place where the rats swam.

This beautiful description of the Fez Medina can be found in the Paul Bowles' novel The Spider's House.  While the protagonist cannot see the water, its presence is everywhere. Years on, the sound of water in Fez is now rare. The waters have become hidden. But now we can report that filmmaker, Joe Lukawski is embarking on a project  called “Les eaux cachées,” or “Hidden Waters”. The View from Fez asked him to explain.

The waters of Fez first interested me when I heard the enigmatic story of the water clock just off Tala’a Kbira – a mechanism no one really knew too much about, except that it was driven by underground water and that it told time quite precisely. From then on, stories of underground water channels and of medieval Fez’s reliance on the plentiful waters flowing through the city built up until it was evident that a film must be made – a film on the history of Fez’s waters, on the rich cultural forms that have taken shape around this vital life-giving resource and on the preservation of such a resource and its place in Fassi life - from Fez’s brilliantly tiled fountains, to the running water the river once provided all homes.

“Les eaux cachées,” or “Hidden Waters” will take the shape of a 52 minute documentary film, produced over the next nine months in and around Fez to address the issues of water conservation and the urban restoration taking place around Fez’s waters. In this, one of our principal aims is to bring Fassi tradition and folklore alive as we explore some of the dying trades linked to the old water system and to a way of life played out increasingly in the shadow of modernity. The Kwadsi, who have the closest relationship with Fez’s medieval water channels – literally crawling though them with long hooked poles – are but one genre of tradesman whose stories “Hidden Waters” will seek to tell.

Having spent some time in Fez before, I have returned on a Fulbright grant for the project and have linked up with some creative folks to make this project happen. Over the next three months I will be researching the old water system and its role in medieval Fez – photographing and taking video that will be shared on the film’s blog (see here). These first months are also your chance to take part in this one of a kind documentary.

Kickstarter, a website dedicated to the “crowd-sourcing” of creative projects, has given us the opportunity to raise funds for the film directly, by engaging you. Crowd-sourcing works like this: we set a goal for our fundraising, you visit our kickstarter page, check out our video and our presentation of the project, and donate by clicking “back this project.” As you’ll notice on the site, your donations do not go unrewarded. Depending on the level of donation, backers receive one of a kind gifts and will all have their names in the films credits.

Our goal is not only to make a film that will be interesting for international crowds, but to create a community around the film that is willing to help us share stories of some of Fez’s most interesting spaces, people and folklore. As disrepair to the old water channels threatens buildings and makes access to water expensive for some medina residents, so modernity obscures Fez’s beautiful history with water.
- Joe Lukawski, director of "Hidden Rivers"
Photographs: Omar Chenafi

The View from Fez is supporting this project  and will have regular reports on its progress. We would urge you to join us in donating to assist Joe in making the film. Contributions can be made at the project's KICKSTARTER PAGE.

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