On October 15, we screened the documentary Slingshot Hip Hop at the Coop.
Slingshot Hip Hop (Palestine/U.S.; 2008) braids together the stories of young Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel as they discover Hip Hop and employ it as a tool to surmount divisions imposed by occupation and poverty.
A post-screening discussion was moderated by Coop member Ora Wise, the film’s co-producer and director of the Children’s Learning Program at Kolot Chayeinu.
An article about the film appeared in the 11/3/11 issue of the Linewaiters’ Gazette and is reproduced here:
Film Covers Grassroots Culture and Politics in Palestine
On October 15, an event at the Coop shed some light on a part of the world that’s been the source of much ink in the Gazette lately: Israel and the Palestinian territories. This screening of “Slingshot Hip Hop,” a 2008 documentary by Jackie Reem Salloum, about Palestinian hip hop and the youth who are driven to make it, drew an engaged audience and led to a lively discussion.
“Slingshot Hip Hop,” as co-producer Ora Wise explained after the screening, had an unusual trajectory for a female-directed documentary, let alone for a film about such a marginalized community. Throughout the filming process, Salloum gave the subjects cameras so that they could create their own material—the reverse of the typical filmmaking process. Despite the film’s premiering at Sundance, Salloum has eschewed traditional distribution methods and has shared the film’s proceeds with its young subjects.
The main characters are the members of the rap group DAM—Suhell Nafar, Tamer Nafar, and Mahmoud Jreri—along with their friends and associates in music. Early in the movie, Tamer describes DAM’s influences. “It’s 30 percent music,” he says to the camera, brandishing a variety of CDs by Arab singers and African-American rappers. “It’s 30 percent literature,” as he gestures to overflowing shelves of books in English and Arabic. And then the camera zooms through the window towards the gritty streets of Lyd, where the remaining 40 percent comes from.
“Slingshot Hip Hop” shows life in Israel and the Palestinian territories on the micro level. The Nafar brothers talk about the lack of opportunity and discrimination they and others experience as Palestinians living in Israel proper. The group PR (Palestinian Rapperz) is based in Gaza, and their movements are regularly blocked by checkpoints that turn a 20-minute drive within the strip into an uncertain journey of hours—and forget about traveling to the West Bank. The female singer Abeer and the women of the hip hop duo Arapeyat have the added responsibility of balancing their talents with more traditional gender expectations.
But there’s also lots of humor, resilience and, of course, great music throughout. If you missed the screening, get your hands on the DVD—and don’t miss the final scene, appearing after the credits have started rolling.
Almost everyone stayed for the discussion. Ora Wise began by linking the grassroots resistance portrayed in the film with the Occupy Wall Street movement that’s in the forefront of so many New Yorkers’ minds. The political hip hop of DAM and the other Palestinian musicians, she explained, is part of the spectrum of liberatory social movements that come up from the bottom.
And Wise stressed that the cultural production in “Slingshot” parallels the way in which Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions(BDS) is also a creative, positive and proactive movement. Both are nonviolent forms of resistance that are grassroots, immediate and in keeping with the Coop’s values.
One audience member praised the way that the film showed regular life in Israel/Palestine—often absent from U.S. media. He said it was inspiring to see a sense of normalcy—communicating with friends online, going dancing—in the face of such hostile circumstances. A Palestinian-American woman said that, despite knowing a lot about the history of the region and having relatives currently living there, she nevertheless found parts of the film shocking in their frank portrayal of oppression.
Another audience member reminded the group that BDS comes from a call made by a wide swath of Palestinian civil society. By adhering to this global movement, she went on, we in the U.S. are participating in a struggle for justice as requested by the people actually affected by Israeli policies.
When Wise mentioned the olive harvest in Palestine, which has taken place at this time of year for centuries, the discussion turned to food under occupation. According to Wise, Palestinian farmers routinely suffer attacks from settlers who burn olive trees and poison the earth with chemicals. Even those Palestinians who can cultivate salable items are often unable to bring them to market due to the arbitrary nature of checkpoints along the route. How is it right, Wise asked the group, that we in Brooklyn have access to fresh, local food at the Coop and don’t act to help those who are denied these basics?