The atmosphere was electric Saturday night at the Bloor Cinema as theater-goers lined up around the block to see the much-anticipated Canadian premiere of “Slingshot Hip Hop. The film was a successful finale to the Toronto Palestine Film Festival’s thrilling week-long entry into Toronto’s vibrant film festival scene.
“Slingshot Hip Hop, by Palestinian-American director Jackie Reem Salloum, riveted the audience with the voices of Palestinian youth set to the revolutionary beats of Palestinian hip hop. Salloum’s first feature film follows young Palestinian rappers who take viewers on a personal tour of the hardships they face growing up in the ghettoes and refugee camps of Israel and Palestine.
Palestinian rappers DAM, Arapeeyat, MWR, PR, and Abeer invoke hip hop to convey their frustrations with occupation, gender inequality, poverty, checkpoints and second class status in their own homeland. The film is punctuated with the entrancing beats of these Palestinian hip hop pioneers.
Influenced by the transformed words of famous Arab poets and African-American hip hop icons they empower a new generation of youth growing up in the regions ghettoes.
Audience members greeted Salloum with a prolonged standing ovation as she took to the stage following the film. Clearly moved by the audience’s ecstatic reaction, Salloum thanked the crowd for their support and stated that “the artists in the film would be very pleased with their largest audience outside of Ramallah. Afterwards, viewers eagerly lined up to purchase advance copies of this award-winning film and 2008 Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize nominee.
Festival organizers were thrilled with the tremendous success of festival, which attracted more than 4,100 viewers to 36 films over the course of eight days. An audience spanning all generations and backgrounds traveled from cities across Ontario, Quebec and the United States to attend the festival screenings. Media coverage of the festival traversed the globe from mainstream and independent media in Toronto to major news sites across the Middle East.
All the screenings were well attended, with many shows selling out including both the opening and closing night films at the Bloor Cinema. Members of other Toronto film festivals and important figures in the arts and cultural scene, including poet Dionne Brand, introduced the films. After most film screenings audience members asked questions of special festival guests, including poet and actress Suheir Hammad of “Salt of this Sea and actor Bachar Da’as of “Driving to Zigzigland. During one question and answer session, a member of the audience stood up and thanked the organizers stating “Everything I learned about Palestine I learned this week at the festival.
Other closing day highlights included a discussion forum entitled “Palestinian Cinema and Cultural Resistance. Panelists Salloum, spoken word artist Rafeef Ziadah, and Professor Rinaldo Walcott discussed the roles art and hip hop are playing in the Palestinian struggle for justice. The short film “Sedition by Toronto filmmaker Min Sook Lee also premiered on the last day at the Bloor Cinema. The film features the stories of Toronto spoken word artists who were on hand and treated the audience with spontaneous on-stage performances after the screening.
At the festival’s closing night party, festival organizer Ziadah thanked the organizing committee, advisory board, sponsors, co-presenters and volunteers for believing in the festival. “We accomplished something incredible in Toronto this week. Thanks to everyone s hard work and dedication we brought Palestine to Toronto. The work for the next festival starts tomorrow.
Conceived by Palestine House to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Nakba, the 1948 mass expulsion of Palestinians from their ancestral lands, TPFF evolved from numerous successful screenings of Palestinian films in the Greater Toronto Area over the years.