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97 min. English, Arabic.

After landing in Cairo as a stranger shortly after the 2011 uprisings, maverick underground American/Lebanese musician and ethnomusicologist Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls, Sublime Frequencies) teams up with three young Egyptian musicians to translate his old songs into Arabic. Under Bishop’s mentorship, this unlikely collaboration transforms into a band, The Invisible Hands.
The film unfolds between the two crucial elections that marked the post “Arab Spring” period in Egypt. Structured around fly-on-the-wall scenes, archival ghost apparitions, absurd cameos, and poetic diary narrations by Bishop, the film juxtaposes the tragicomedy of politics and art-making in the so-called periphery.

Marina Gioti is a filmmaker and visual artist born and based in Athens, Greece. She studied chemical engineering, environmental management (MSc), filmmaking, and media and communications (MA) in Greece, UK, and Belgium. She has co-curated two art exhibitions and programmed experimental and documentary films for underground screenings and film festivals. She has served on juries at Courtisane Festival in Ghent/Belgium and at TENT, the Dutch art academies awards in 2012 and 2013. In 2017 she was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude. Her work has been screened and exhibited worldwide at both international film festivals and museums and biennials. In 2017 she was a participating artist at documenta 14, where she presented her debut feature film, The Invisible Hands.

Georges Salameh, born in 1973 in Beirut, Lebanon, is a filmmaker and photographer based in Athens. He studied Cinema and History of Art at Paris VIII St. Denis in France (1991-1994) and worked in Greek and foreign cinematographic and audiovisual productions (1995-2004). Since 1999 he has directed shorts, documentaries, experimental/essay movies, and video installations. His work has been exhibited in museums, galleries, and film festivals. In Palermo, he co-founded MeMSéA, an audiovisual production company, where he worked as a producer and director (2009-2014). Since 2011 he is a co-founding member of the Depression Era Project. Since 2015 he has also been working as a curator of the Greek section, on a platform for contemporary photography, The Urbanautica Institute.

Artist statement

It was due to a string of coincidences and the free time that our recessing country, Greece, abundantly offered to us, that we found ourselves in Cairo in 2012. In a way, we immediately felt at home. Demonstrations, tear gas, traffic jams. We didn’t know much about the Invisible Hands project and there was no idea for a film. We knew Alan through music. So did his all-Egyptian band. We all met him separately at two different stops of his last tour: Athens and Cairo. We soon realized that we were witnessing a musical experiment, actually the most ambitious that this unconventional musician/ethnomusicologist has ever been involved in: to produce his most accessible album to date in a language he doesn’t speak: Arabic.

The repurposing of songs for different markets and languages is not a new concept in music. However, a poetic content featuring themes about creeping globalism, gun fantasies, water boarding and torture, and military madness – outré even for English – was quite unusual for the translation language chosen. Yet eerily relevant to the post-“Arab Spring” disillusionment, especially if one considers that some of these songs were 30 years old. Alan Bishop speaks of an epiphany when asked why some forgotten songs resurfaced at this particular time zone, era, and language. Epiphanies cannot be explained or dissected. The observation of their outcome became the material for this film, where strands of stories related to music, politics, inspiration, language, depression, and uncertainty eventually came together.

(Marina Gioti, Georges Salameh)

Production Marina Gioti, Georges Salameh. Executive Producer Athina Rachel Tsangari. Production company Vertiginous (Athens, Greece). Directors Marina Gioti, Georges Salameh. Screenplay Marina Gioti. Director of photography Georges Salameh. Editing Marina Gioti. Music The Invisible Hands. Sound design Adham Zidan. Sound Marina Gioti, Georges Salameh. With Alan Bishop, Aya Hemeda, Cherif El Masri, Adham Zidan.

World sales Vertiginous


Marina Gioti: 2004: Your Girlfriend isn’t coming back (4 min.). 2005: b-alles (2 min.). 2009: The Secret School (11 min.). 2014: As to Posterity (12 min.). 2016: St. Marina (7 min.). 2017: The Invisible Hands.

Georges Salameh: 2003: On the Olive Route (61 min.). 2005: HOLD MY ME (12 min.). 2007: Mount Falakro (29 min.). 2008: MAESMAK (20 min.). 2012: Ti Vitti (29 min.). 2017: The Invisible Hands.

Photo: © Marina Gioti, Georges Salameh

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur