Review: ‘Slingshot Hip Hop’

Rap becomes the nonviolent weapon of choice for several young Palestinians in "Slingshot Hip Hop"

Rap becomes the nonviolent weapon of choice for several young Palestinians in “Slingshot Hip Hop,” Jackie Reem Salloum’s engaging look at a fascinating Arab subculture. Lively but roughly structured docu could’ve benefited from more performance footage, focusing instead on the challenges these young talents (hailing from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza) have faced on their rise to prominence, especially the geopolitical barriers that have hindered their mobility. Music-themed fests and Mideast programmers should make room on their playlists.

Tamer Nafar, frontman of Israel-based group DAM (whose single “Who’s the Terrorist?” became a significant hit) and unofficial father of the movement, explains how American rappers such as Tupac influenced their Arab counterparts. Palestinian hip-hop is inherently political, as demonstrated in the live performances — by musicians including MWR, PR (or Palestinian Rapperz) and female rapper Abeer — which take on the spirit and emotional charge of a rally. Salloum doesn’t skimp on personal stories or footage of the suffering inflicted by the Israeli occupation, but pounds home the point that art is more constructive than violence. Handheld lensing, captured largely by the pic’s subjects, is supplemented by some inventive animation.

Slingshot Hip Hop

Production

A Fresh Booza production. Produced by Rumzi Araj, Jackie Reem Salloum, Waleed Zaiter. Directed by Jackie Reem Salloum.

Crew

Camera (color, HD); editors, Salloum, Waleed Zaiter. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 18, 2008. Arabic, Hebrew, English dialogue. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Tamer Nafar, Suhell Nafar, Mahmoud Jrere, Mahmoud Shalabi, Abeer, Mohammed Al-Farra, Mahmoud Fayyad, Abu Tamer, Udi Aloni. Narrator: Suhell Nafar.

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