Jackie Reem Salloum talks about her documentary, Slingshot Hip Hop, which showcases stories of young Palestinians on the hip-hop scene. Click here to learn more about Slingshot Hip Hop and to view clips of the movie.
Q: How long have you been working on this project?
JS: I’ve been working on this film for almost five years. I first heard Palestinian hip hop in 2002 while listening to Pacifica radio. The guest was Israeli artist Udi Aloni and he was playing “Meen Erhabi” (“Who’s the Terrorist?”) by the first Palestinian hip hop group, DAM. I became totally transfixed and created a short video for the song. In the summer of 2003, my cousin Rumzi and I went to Beit Jala, our hometown in the West Bank, and began filming. Each year since then, we would think to ourselves, naively, “Okay, this year we’ll finish it and submit it to Sundance!” The deadline would come and go and we’d still be working …we had no idea it would take this long! We gave the story the attention it needed, though, and it’s really paid off.
Q: Did you encounter many difficulties while shooting in Palestine?
JS: Difficulties have defined the making of this film. For starters, just getting into Israel as a Palestinian-American is a serious challenge. Some of my colleagues have actually been turned away at the airport and, with no explanation, been forbidden by the Israeli government from returning. And this is the risk I run just entering Israel. When I want to film in Gaza, which is essentially a giant open-air prison, or the West Bank, I’ve got to get through checkpoints … and then I’m filming in a militarized zone. Then I have to get out of Israel with my footage and that is a situation where again some of my fellow artists have had their tapes taken away from them before being allowed onto their flight back to the States.
Q: What has been the greatest challenge, other than financial, in getting this film finished?
JS: Any filmmaker has to jump through many hoops to get a film finished. As a first-time filmmaker, there were many times when I didn’t even know what those hoops were. There were so many great people who have dedicated time and energy to the making of this film but very few of them had actual filmmaking experience. Experience is invaluable; I recommend to new filmmakers that they try to find a mentor or two who can coach them through it all.
Q: You’re about to have the world premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and I know you’re under the gun to get finished in time. Have you had many invitations to show the film in other festivals yet?
JS: Yes. The response to this film has been a bit outside of the norm from what I’ve heard. We put a trailer for the film up online in late 2004 and both my personal Web site and the film’s website began averaging 60,000 hits per month. When the trailer reached ifilm.com in October 2005, it became second most viewed just under Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire … and that was over two years ago. Over the past couple of years, it’s been difficult to manage the massive interest in the film while we were still making the film. Now that we’re finished, we’re excited to follow up with the literally thousands of film and hip hop festivals, community organizations, and individuals who have contacted us.