Taher Abdel-Ghani


Cinema has taken up the role of a social agent that introduced a variety of images and events to the public during critical times. This paper proposes the idea of using films as a tool to reclaim public space where a sense of belonging and dialogue restore to a meaningful place. During the January 2011 protests in Egypt, Tahrir Cinema, an independent revolutionary project composed of filmmakers and other artists, offered a space in Downtown Cairo and screened archival footage of the ongoing events to the protestors igniting civic debate and discussions. The traditional public space has undergone what Karl Kropf refers to as the phylogenetic change, i.e. form and function that is agreed upon by society and represents a common conception of certain spatial elements. Hence, the framework that this research will follow is a two-layer discourse, the existence of cinema in public spaces, and the existence of public spaces in cinema. Eventually, the paper seeks to enhance the social relationship between society, spaces, and cinematic narration – a vital tool to raise awareness about the right to the city.


How to Cite
Abdel-Ghani, T. (2020) “Film Intervention in Public Space: A Phylogenetic Spatial Change”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(4), pp. 107–122. doi: 10.32891/jps.v5i4.1384.
Art and Activism
Author Biography

Taher Abdel-Ghani, Modern Sciences & Arts University

Taher Abdel-Ghani is an urban researcher, a lecturer assistant and an independent filmmaker. His main focus is on analyzing the urban environment through cinematic images, an idea that started in 2012 when he received his B.Sc. in Architecture. After completing his double Masters degree in Advanced Urbanism from Germany and China, he gradually shifted his career from architecture practice to a full-time research work for progrss - an online platform dedicated to innovation, trends and practices in transformation of cities around the world. Currently, he is a lecturer assistant at Modern Sciences and Arts University (MSA) in Cairo, teaching Architecture Design, History of Architecture and Research for Graduation Projects. Alongside his work, he has published several academic papers about the concept of Cinematic Urbanism, in addition to screening some short films in Egypt, Germany, France, Portugal and Italy. His latest film 'Cold Dissent', a 4-minute documentary about inaccessibility in the city of Cairo, received the Best Short Film award at the 2019 Biennale Spazio Pubblico Festival in Rome.


Abaza, M. (2013) ‘Cairo Diary: Space-Wars, Public Visibility and the Transformation of Public Space in Post-revolutionary Egypt’ in Berry, C., Harbord, J., & O. Moore, R. (eds.) Public Space, Public Media. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 88-110.

Abaza, M. (2014). ‘Post-January Revolution Cairo: Urban Wars and the Reshaping of Public Space’, Theory, Culture & Society, 31(7-8), 163-183.

Abdel-Ghani, T. (2017). ‘Cinema as an Urban Catalyst for Creative Cities: The Case of Post-Revolution Cairo’, V Congresso Internacional Cidades Criativas: Libro de Actas, 395-406.

Baker, R. (1974). ‘Egypt in the Shadows: Film and the Political Order’, American Behavioral Scientist, 17(3), 393-423.

Baladi, L. (2016) Archiving a Revolution in the Digital Age, Archiving an Act of Resistance [Online]. Available at: https://www.ibraaz.org/essays/163 (Accessed: 27 July 2020).

Bayat, A. (2010) Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Binder-Reisinger, T., Feldges, U., Hatzmann, H., Offenhuber, M. & Wakolbinger, R. (2011). ‘Notes on Artistic Research in Urban Spaces: Film, Video and Sound Strategies’, Film and Media Studies, 4, 89-100.

Brody, R. (2008) Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard. New York: Henry Holt & Company.

Bruno, G. (2002) Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film. New York: Verso.

Casetti, F. (2013) ‘What is a Screen Nowadays?’ in Berry, C., Harbord, J., & O. Moore, R. (eds.) Public Space, Public Media. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 16-40.

Chanan, M. (1997). ‘The Changing Geography of Third Cinema’, Screen, 38(4), 372-388.

Debord, G. (1967) The Society of the Spectacle. Paris: Editions Buchet-Chastel.

Dell’Aria, A. (2016) ‘Spectatorship in Public Space: The Moving Image in Public Art’ in Reinhard, C.D. & Olson, C.J. (eds.) Making Sense of Cinema: Empirical Studies into Film Spectators and Spectatorship. Bloomsbury: Bloomsbury Press, pp. 17-36.

Farag, F. (1999) The center of the center [Online]. Available at: https://www.weekly.ahram.org.eg1999445feature.htm/ (Accessed: 27 July 2020).

Finding Berlin (2010) [Closed] Hit & Run Kino: A cinematic experience on the move [Online]. Available at: https://www.findingberlin.com/hit-run-kino/ (Accessed: 15 July 2020).

Fox, D. (2017) Schoharie celebrates its role in popularizing drive-ins [Online]. Available at: https://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-features/article/Schoharie-celebrates-its-role-in-popularizing-11202945.php#photo-13045636 (Accessed: 23 July 2020).

Hayward, C.R. (2000) De-Facing Power. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Khatib, L. (2006) Filming the Modern Middle East: Politics in the Cinemas of Hollywood and the Arab World. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.

Kropf, K. (2001). ‘Conceptions of Change in the Built Environment’, Urban Morphology, 5(1), 29-42.

Larkin, B. (2008) Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Durham: Duke University Press.

Lebas, E. (1995). ‘When Every Street Became a Cinema: The Film Work of Bermondsey Borough Council’s Public Health Department, 1923-1953’, History Workshop Journal, 39(1), 42-66.

Lebow, A. (2018). ‘Filming Revolution’ [Online]. Available at: https://www.filmingrevolution.org/index.html (Accessed: 27 July 2020).

Le Cinema Club (2018). ‘Actua 1: a film by Philippe Garrel’ [Online]. Available at https://www.lecinemaclub.com/archives/actua-1/ (Accessed: 05 November 2020).

Mitchell, W.J.T. (2012). ‘Image, Space, Revolution: The Arts of Occupation’, Critical Inquiry, 39(1), 8-32.

Mollerup, N. & Gaber, S. (2015). ‘Making Media Public: On Revolutionary Street Screenings in Egypt’, International Journal of Communication, 9, 2903-2921.

Said, A. (2015). ‘We ought to be here: Historicizing space and mobilization in Tahrir Square’, International Sociology, 30(4), 348-366.

Shinjo, S. (2013). ‘Mafto7 – Public Space in Cairo. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21dy_l7sfW0 (Accessed: 26 July 2020).

Stephens, P.G. (2006). ‘A Real Community Bridge: Informing Community-Based Learning through a Model of Participatory Public Art’, Art Education, 59(2), 40-46.

Virilio, P. (1994) The Vision Machine. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.