The Palestinian condition can be summed up in one word: Naqba — the Arabic word for “disaster”. While the Israelis celebrate their Independence Day each May, the Palestinian population mourns the loss of their land, liberty and peace on exactly the same date. It’s one of the most tragic contradictions of our times.
But the Palestinian people are nothing if not resilient. Through their ordeal they’ve made beautiful cinema, see Elia Suleiman, created mind blowing art like Nabil Anani and succeeded in sports. I could think of several examples of each. I mean, Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf became the second ever Arab Idol in 2014 despite the fact that he wasn’t even allowed into Egypt, where the competition was filmed. While walls are built to keep them in, Palestinians figure out more ways to overcome those obstacles and become better, stronger and more successful.
In one such tale of overcoming obstacles, Michael Rowley filmed Palestinians Sami and Mohammad in his latest documentary ‘Hurdle’, which will world premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival on April 12th. Sami practices Parkour, a discipline which uses movement and acrobatics to get from one point to another, in Jerusalem, while Mohammad is a photographer in Aida Refugee Camp. Both teach their respective crafts to the youth of their areas.
“Why build it so high? Do they think we are Superman?” One of the protagonists says at the start of the film, while staring at the wall that is so incomprehensibly built — take note President Trump — that even on a map it’s impossible to understand its purpose. Well, aside from creating anger, confusion and separation among the Palestinian population, that is. ‘Hurdle’ certainly makes the viewer imagine Sami and his crew as superheroes, poised to fly across roofs, tumble through large squares and jump from one obstacle to the next.
There are scenes at an Israeli built checkpoint, at the beginning of the film, which made me claustrophobic and infuriated at once, which is why Parkour seems like such a perfect antidote to the stifling feeling that the Israeli regime has created for Palestinians sharing their land. While they build walls and create barriers, the Parkour team fly high over them, looking down at the earthbound. It’s a great metaphor for the life well lived.
Rowley also touches upon the Al Aqsa compound closure during Ramadan in 2017 which lasted 13 days and was sparked after an alleged attack by Palestinian militants on Israeli soldiers. There, the destinies of both Sami and Mohammad meet, one while Parkouring and the other photographing the aftermath of the Israeli decision. It’s an interesting twist, a moment of poetic heroism in this already fascinating film.
This Friday, April 5th, Michael Rowley will be live on Instagram, answering questions about the film from the PaliRoots account. But also to bring attention to the film’s Launchgood campaign, which is raising money to fund the distribution of ‘Hurdle’. Inshallah. For more info on the campaign, watch their trailer and to contribute, check out the film’s page here.
Incidentally, one of the things that caught my eye in ‘Hurdle’ is Mohammad’s haunting “1948” sweatshirt with a hood… And maybe that’s available to buy on PaliRoots. Check out their website for more info.