"You want me to go to the law? What for? You're the Witness, the Lawyer, and the Judge!" says the Arab-Israeli hip hop band DAM, referring to the injustice Palestinians facing. Like the other hip hop bands in the region, DAM uses its melodies and lyrics as a form non-violent weapon. To get out the anger, to start a new form of resistance or simply to keep the youth away from extremism, hip hop seems to be the right way in the Palestinian journey.
In her film Slingshot Hiphop, Saloum tells us the story of hip hop bands in different regions of Palestine and Arab cities of Israel. All bands seen in the film live close to each other but most of them are not allowed to travel outside their city. Through music, they transcend the borders and get permission to perform concerts in other cities and get a chance to meet other hip hop bands. Even though the occupation leaves too little room for creative expressions of resistance, hip hop invents a new path by combining the history of the conflict, music and the daily life which is always affected by politics.
The documentary has a smooth but multidimensional narrative: One minute it feels like a Palestine- Israel introduction class with illustration of the map with the refugee camps, the other it is an MTV reality show revealing different music bands. Succesful on entertaining and educating at the same time, the film makes you feel what is it like to be there.
Slingshot Hophop is an eye opener to see what is going on behind the scenes and between the lines in Palestine while following the rappers, you will see collapse of stereotypes about Palestinian youth, family life and of course music. And it is going to remind you one more time: There is always hope for justice.
I was lucky to meet director Jackie Reem Saloum in Istanbul and had the privilege of spending one full day together. We toured Istanbul, discussed politics, talked about travelling and I asked her a few questions about the film.
Saloum shows us Palestine from a different angle with Slingshot Hip Hop. We talked about how music became a medium for resistance for the new Palestinian generation, and how to break the stereotypes of Arabs.
In Slingshot Hip Hop we see a portrait of Palestine and Palestinian youth that is different from what we are used to. Why did you choose this way to talk about a country which is usually only discussed in terms of its politics?
The Israeli occupation of Palestine, which has been going on for 60 years, is especially restrictive on the lives of young people, and kills their hopes. The rap groups that I discovered in 2002 are using music as a means of resistance. The way that the occupation and resistance affects the young generation’s life is usually ignored. Slingshot Hip Hop tries to show young people, music and resistance blended with the details of daily life.
One of the interesting points about the movie was the way it changed the perceived image of Arabs, and showed the meaning of women, family and hip hop in Palestinian society. How did you manage to capture these details?
The filming took 5 years, and we shot 700 hours of video. Since my mother is Palestinian, I am familiar with the social structure of Palestine and I wanted to show how different it is from how it is presented in the media. The fact that people of all ages come to the rap concerts, the support that musicians get from their families, the expressive force of the women - these things have usually been kept in the background of Palestine case. I tried to express these details, which actually form the basis of the resistance, together with the new medium of this resistance, the music.
First photo, the band PR from Gaza (from sundance channel)
The other photos by M. Murat Kocaağa