film review: SLINGSHOT HIP HOP

Directed, produced & edited by Jackie Reem Salloum
Produced by Rumzi Araj
Producer, Editor, Visual Effects Supervisor: Waleed Zaiter
Original Music by DAM, PR, Abeer, Arapeyat & Mahmoud Shalabi
U.S., 2008, 80 minutes

Article originally appeared:

Jimmy Carter kept coming to mind as I watched “Slingshot Hip Hop”, a first feature-length documentary by Palestinian-American Jackie Reem Salloum. His reputation has come under intense fire since his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid was published the Fall of 2006. His critics would do well to see Jonathan Demme’s documentary “Jimmy Carter Man From Plains”. It makes a sober case for the plight of those refugee Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. In no small way, “Slingshot Hip Hop”, makes as effective a case but perhaps in a quieter more down to earth way. As has been shown in so many documentaries and narrative films over the past few years, music can be an extremely effective tool of protest and “Slingshot Hip Hop” follows the first Palestinian-Arab rap band, DAM, and the movement they spawned.

Heavily influenced by American black hip hop culture, DAM started up as a group of young men just having their kicks. It didn’t take long for them to realize how powerful their existence was and that their message could be equally so. The nature of their lyrics necessarily changed and they started rapping about the struggle of the Palestinian, about selling drugs and the unfair treatment of women. They visited schools, talking to and inspiring legions of young kids. Their uplifting message attracted Palestinians of all ages to their shows, something rappers in the U.S. have lost site of. The arc of Slingshot Hip Hop regards a newer rap group, PR (Palestinian Rappers) whose members are virtual prisoners of Gaza, and their efforts to get their own music out. Watching these young people emerge as artistic personalities is an awesome experience to have caught on film. I was wondering what Jimmy Carter might have made of the documentary. I imagine he would have liked it very much indeed.