Film maker Zoe Fayaud has just launched a Kickstarter campaign for her planned documentary on the good work done by SkatePAL and SkateQilya in Palestine. Check the short video and bit of text below for a more in depth sense of what she will be trying to achieve, then head over to her Kickstarter and lend a hand if you can!
Cover photo by Sam Dearden - more at: www.samdearden.com
After a summer spent in Ramallah volunteering as an English teacher, skateboarder Charlie Davis realised that skating was relatively unknown to the region. He founded the charity SkatePal in 2013, consistantly returning to Palestine with a shifting team of volunteers to build ramps, skate parks and to provide skate lessons to young people across the West Bank.
In a region which is divided by a wall and whose population is under constant oppression, skateboarding has become an essential tool for rebellion and non-violent resistance. It is unexpectedly popular amongst both boys and girls of all ages. Skate parks and ramps have sprung up in the towns of Ramallah, Asira Al-Shamaliya and Jayyous - and more constructions are planned for the upcoming years.
Children grow up quickly in Palestine. Their daily life is subject to a brutal occupation. Everyone knows somebody who is in prison or who has been killed by the Israeli army. During the second Intifada, the Palestinian territories suffered from long curfews and periodical invasions by the Israeli military. Clashes occurred on a daily basis. Although the intensity of violence has decreased over the past few years, invasions and arbitrary arrests still occur to this day. Throwing rocks is the only form of resistance young Palestinians know of. When this energy is channeled onto a skateboard, these kids turn out to be extremely tenacious riders, confronting the ramps with fearlessness. "The other side has guns and tanks. For a long time, all we had was rocks," says Mai Alem, a girl skater who lives in Ramallah. "Now we have skateboarding, but also music and art." Parkour, breakdancing and hip hop are also very popular with the younger generation.
Aram Sabbah and Adham Tamimi were amongst the first local skateboarders of Ramallah. They were about 14 years old when they met Charlie and quickly became involved with SkatePal. They both fell in love with skateboarding and have witnessed the huge influence it has had on local youth, including themselves. “Skateboarding has made me feel like I’m free, like there’s nothing at all that can stop me", says Aram. “Being involved with SkatePal just augmented all of that and I got to meet a lot of different people, it’s been such a great human experience." Aram was shot while participating in a protest at Qalandia checkpoint in 2014, and he was distraught thinking he might not be able to skate again. The wound took months to heal and Aram was gradually able to get back on the board.
Aram’s enthusiasm is shared by his best friend Adham – “For us it’s a really powerful tool and method to empower the young community rather than have them focus on wars and political agendas that have nothing to do with them. Instead it provides them with a mind-set to help them go through life without the fear of failing and with the ambition to try to make it big in this world!"
Palestine is too often only mentioned in mainstream media when clashes between Palestinians and Israelis occur. We have seen it recently with Donald Trump’s incendiary declaration. Journalists only flock to the West Bank when such words are ushered and when violence is expected to break out regionally. Cameras and mics are only brought in to witness what is expected, and what is sensational.
The idea of this film is to witness another side of Palestine, one that is devoid of any stereotype or pre-conception. We seek to hear the voices of those who are rarely heard but who are present, who are active, creative and valid.
We want to hear the youth of Palestine, their stories, hopes and aspirations, and their opinions; all of it through the unexpected prism of skateboarding.
For more information, visit SkatePal's website - http://www.skatepal.co.uk