Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Slingshot Hip Hop

Slingshot - the preferred weapon of the Intifada and young King David in his faceoff with Goliath. Director/ producer/editor Jackie Reem Salloum sees Palestinian rap as a political weapon, giving voice to a people, creating unity across checkpoints and walls. Her documentary traces Palestinian rap from its origins in the nineties through to the near present, capturing the stutters and stumbles of flawed efforts to imitate US hitmakers, the excitement as a political message emerges with "Who's The Terrorist" by DAM (pictured) in Lyd, Israel and the efforts of young rappers in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel to spread the rap gospel and communicate with one another. She captures the movement from the rappers' view point with realism and flair.

Slingshot is a little heavy handed at times, with soliloquy after soliloquy on the despair of living under an occupying force cutting to a new rhyme or concert, but on the whole the spirit and the excitement of the young rappers comes through. This is Salloum's first full length film, and she trained in fine arts, not movie making, so her effort as a producer and director is remarkable. As an editor she still needs some practice - this movie would have far more impact if the length was cut dramatically. Every point could be made in two thirds the time. It is worth watching, but not at the cost of a full price theater ticket. Wait for a rental and be prepared to do some fast forwarding.

One footnote, the film adopts the view of the Palestinian rappers. Although the language is restrained (for a film about rap) and they don't directly promote violence (at least not in the subtitles of this movie), the Palestinian rappers' list of things they like about Israel is remarkably short. Some of the Mountainside, NJ audience was clearly offended that Israel was portrayed in a negative light, with little effort at balance and no ray of hope via a reconciliation ending. Chuck Rose deserves credit for showing a film that might cost him some customers and defending the proposition that the filmmaker can tell her own story from her own perspective.

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