Christian Barani went walking in Dubai, a city where nothing is conceived for the body in motion. A city that is built by and for traffic. He walked in order to become lost in.

My Dubaï life

2011, 60 mn

Production : Khiasma

Aide à la production : Département de la Seine-Saint-Denis

MG: What is the starting point of My Dubai Life?


CB: The point of departure of my experience in Dubai was a proposal made by Olivier Marboeuf, artistic director of the Espace Khiasma. He suggested I should work within the framework of a project called “The Manifesto for Invisible Cities” (initially planned for the Seine Saint Denis contemporary art Biennale). I was a bit hesitant to begin with, because I usually work on little known countries, removed from media happenings. But when I started to gather information, I realized that in this postmodern city everything was designed for and by the traffic. Nothing was conceived for walking. So I said to myself that this presented a fine challenge, to go walking in that city where nothing is planned for any such activity, and where the life style is built around the traffic and air conditioning.

MG: Filming is neither a trifling matter nor risk-free in Dubai, as your film shows in glimpses. How did you get in touch with the different people involved in your film, who don’t meet?

CB: Filming in Dubai brings contradictions to light. The first one is that everyone who goes to Dubai films. For tourists, there are absolutely no questions asked, ever. Clutching their cameras and/or telephones, they are free to film what they want within the planned and organized framework of a holiday visit to Dubai. Everything is permitted, just as prostitution, drugs and alcohol are all permitted. This system of representation is even promoted, because it depicts the unexpected image that Dubai wants to get across. Meaning, a city where pleasure and money are bottomless wells. The problem surfaces when you start filming and asking certain questions in places like working-class neighbourhoods. Everything in fact starts to become problematic, when you show an interest in the lot of workers. The Secret Police is very busy. Taxi drivers play an active part in this eavesdropping on society. Denunciation and informing are also part and parcel of this surveillance system. They are quite widespread in the streets because it is important to feature properly on administrative lists if you want to have your work contract renewed. The work contract is what governs the society. Without this contract, there’s no way you can be in the emirate, and thus try and learn money. But this fear of words is also widespread in the expatriate ruling class. Nobody dared or wanted to talk in front of the camera, only in front of a mike. Nobody wants to risk being expelled. Only one brave Lebanese guy was prepared to talk in front of the camera. In Deira, an essentially working-class quarter, I was able to work in a relatively undisturbed way thanks to the advice of a young Afghani who showed me the faces of the Secret Police present in the neighbourhood. But also thanks to the great mobility I have. When I film, I move about a lot and never stay for long in the same place. The meetings that take place in the film do so a result of

walking and chance. Every day, I walked for about 8-10 hours, which means between 25 and 30 kilometres. The body became involved. With this system, psycho-geography drew me into completely unforeseen spaces and places. And it was in that loss of reference that my relations and meetings with other.