This is a story about facing the most formidable barriers, and how we can repel off the walls that surround us and learn how to fly.
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I am in the process of creating a documentary film about a group of Palestinian boys who are skating, making graffiti, performing beatbox, hip hop and parkour in Qalqilya - a town in the West Bank that is almost entirely surrounded by Israel's Wall.
They practice mostly at night in the back alleys and streets, as they are outsiders in the town and do not have any proper facilities. Their dream is to perform and find a safe space to train where more young people can experience the freedom they have discovered.
I am in search of funding for the production phase of this project. Filming will begin this September, 2011. The boys in Qalqilya and I are looking for your support to help me get this documentary off the ground.
Once a thriving agricultural center of the West Bank, Qalqilya today has been cut off from most of its land. It experienced some of the worst conditions during the second intifada and was also home to several suicide bombers. As a result, there are very few resources and very little space for children to grow and develop.
Sajed will be the main character I want to follow in this film. He is a 28-year-old Palestinian from Qalqilya, who is an entrepreneur, inline skater and a mentor to the boys. In addition to helping the boys train, Sajed has a hair salon that is tricked out with red graffiti and Eminem posters. He was told four years ago that his business would never succeed in a conservative town where men are supposed to get their hair cut at a traditional barbershop. Taking into consideration that hair is very symbolic in Islamic culture, Sajed's business is very innovative. I plan on focusing on this pioneering spirit and how it has shaped the boys around him. Their fluid, acrobatic movements fly in the face of both the physical walls of the occupation and the social barriers in their community.
While hip hop culture has been flourishing in Palestine for over a decade, the combination of parkour, skating and beatbox is very new. I am currently working with Palestinian organizers and event coordinators in the West Bank to connect the boys to a wider audience beyond Qalqilya. We are setting up performances in several Palestinian cities in the fall in order to bring more attention to their need for a space to safely train.
My goal is not just to document their story and journey, but also to use their story as a tool to find them the funding they need. Your investment into this project is about helping to create a film. The film is an investment in building a space that will allow more Palestinian kids to learn to fly.
In April, 2011, I was traveling around the West Bank conducting research for a project about borders. Qalqilya was of special interest in my work, since the town is literally swallowed by a physical border. After a chance encounter with Sajed, I immediately knew that my lens was shifting focus. What has been so inspiring for me, is that this project is no longer just about borders, but about the people who transcend them.
Although I did not have all the appropriate equipment to start production on a film, I began interviewing Sajed and the boys and started shooting footage of them practicing. I was able to shoot four sessions with the boys during this trip to Palestine, despite the challenges they face performing in Qalqilya.
Once I returned home, I quickly edited this material into the trailer shown above. I will soon be adding actual subtitles. My attention thus far has been focused on the research and planning required to making this film a reality. I have created a budget, begun interviewing potential production assistants in the West Bank, have formulated a narrative strategy for this story, and have been working with organizers to set up performances for the boys.
My plan is to return to Palestine in the first week of September and remain there through at least November documenting the boys' journey. With Palestinian Statehood entering headlines again, and a possible new course of action taking place at the UN in September, shooting this film in the fall will be very timely.
JOIN THE ADVENTURE, SUPPORT THE JOURNEY
Audio and location support are the most essential elements to carry out this production. Every dollar raised will be used to cover the following expenses:
- Travel for one to Israel/West Bank
- Room and board in Ramallah (a critical location for resources and networking).
- Transportation throughout the West Bank. Qalqilya is an hour and a half by car from Ramallah. In addition, the boys and I will be traveling to different towns and cities for performances.
- Audio recording equipment, video stabilization equipment and external hard drives
- Per diem for an on-location audio assistant
EXCEEDING OUR GOAL
While this budget will provide me with the support required to shoot this film, any additional funds would go to great use. Exceeding my funding goal would allow me to do the following:
- Compensate one or two Palestinian production assistants who have thus far been dedicating their time out of love and passion for the kids and the project
- Bring an extra camera, which would be extremely helpful in shooting stills along-side video
- Bring more video stabilization equipment, since recording teenage boys running up walls is itself an acrobatic feat.
A lot of this equipment is typically rented for any film production. And while I have already been in touch with rental suppliers in Tel Aviv, shooting in the occupied West Bank for such an extended stay makes renting as expensive as purchasing (travel between Qalqilya and Tel Aviv through checkpoints, and then back, can take a whole day...if you are lucky).
Expressing my gratitude to the boys was always a challenge because they would interrupt by thanking me profusely for making the journey to be with them. So thank you for making the trip to this page and taking the time to learn about these incredible kids. I look forward to having you join me in creating this film and making their story cross over many borders.
- (68 days)