Sometimes (I may well have said this before) one just has to marvel at the wonderful stoicism and resistant spirit of the Palestinian community. I got a new dimension of that human enterprise last night watching the fine docu-film Slingshot Hip Hop (at my little cinema paradiso, the GFT).
Directed and part-produced by US-Palestinian Jackie Reem Salloum, it tracks, musically and politically, the daily endurances of young, aspiring rappers living under occupation and finding expression for their imprisonment through Palestinian hip hop. Listeners and viewers will be particularly impressed by the rich fusion of Arabic-Western beat and the poetic, literary language of Palestine that helps amplify the message of non-violent, politicised resistance.
Another poignant theme throughout the movie concerns the close connection developed between the variously featured rap artists in Gaza, the West Bank and Lyd inside Israel - or, as the rappers in "67" (Gaza/West Bank) call the latter, our brothers and sister still living in "48". We also get painful insights into the difficulties of being permanently trapped in Gaza and the longing of young Palestinians to simply ever visit Jerusalem.
Together, DAM and the other groups have built a mass following, providing release and a little sense of cool empowerment for Palestinian kids, male and female. The engaged and supported role of female rap artist, Abeer, gives added nuance to the negotiation of 'liberal' artistic expression in a still Islamic-based society.
In the post-film Q&A, the director and lead role rapper from Dam offered sobering accounts of life under occupation and Israeli obstructions in making the film - Salloum endured lengthy detentions on entering Israel and had her cameras broken by Israeli soldiers. But, with good grace, she dismisses it as token inconvenience compared to the daily grind and humiliations faced by the rappers and their families in the slums and refugee camps.
Salloum also made particular reference to the amazing calmness of Palestinians in the face of adversity, for example in being kept for endless hours at checkpoints.
It's a picture that helps break more of the Israeli-fed stereotypes of vengeful Palestinians. Indeed, as related, Palestinian rap is a virtuous model of peaceful, humanist appeal compared with much of the right-wing, aggressive version that predominates in Israel.
As the father of one of the film's rappers reminds us, peaceful cultural resistance is still the Palestinians' greatest asset.
*In loving memory of Jacqui