Kunstsammlung NRW
Am Set von Wael Shawkys "Cabaret Crusades. The Secrets of Karbala" im K20, Foto: Arnika Fürgut/Kunstsammlung
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Behind the Scenes II: Wael Shawky’s Film Production “The Secrets of Karbala” at the K20

In October, assisted by an international crew consisting of marionettists, stage designers, lighting technicians, assistants, cinematographers, and a professional film production firm, Wael Shawky launched the shooting of the third part of Cabaret Crusades at the K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. In his trilogy, the Egyptian artist depicts the history of the medieval Crusades from an Arab perspective – with everything enacted in defamiliarized fashion using marionettes.

Through a glass window in the Grabbehalle, visitors can observe the extraordinary production live – and #32 too has had a look behind the scenes.

The settings of The Secrets of Karbala include historically central battlegrounds, including some having renewed contemporary significance. Aleppo, Damascus, and Baghdad among others provide backdrops for dialogue, but also for dramatic events and scenes. In Part III as well, the protagonists are played by marionettes: dangling from long threads, these handmade, glass beings are manipulated from above, mechanically – yet nonetheless seem strikingly immediate and lifelike.

With more than 40 crew members, a revolving stage built especially for this cinematic production, extensive camera technology, and approximately 150 glass marionettes made on Murano, Wael Shawky’s exhibition project is not only a logistical challenge, but an extraordinary and exceptional event as well. For the first time, the Kunstsammlung becomes the set for an international film production.

Wael Shawky’s “Cabaret Crusades: The Secret of Karbala” will premiere on December 4th at the K20, where subsequent screenings will run until January 4th, 2015, when the show closes. Thereafter, the film will be seen beginning on January 15, 2015 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The first two parts of the trilogy, entitled “The Horror Show File” (2010) and “The Path to Cairo” (2012), have been on view in the exhibition at Grabbeplatz since September.


Text & photos: Arnika Fürgut / Kunstsammlung


Exhibition Wael Shawky: Cabaret Crusades