A new generation of Palestinian youth overcome obstacles through their love of the sport parkour, in the shadow of a border wall, as chronicled in Dallas filmmaker Michael Rowley’s feature documentary directorial debut Hurdle. Hurdle will World Premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) taking place April 11-18.
As the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories approached its 50th year, Hurdle reveals an important and intimate story emerging from the hearts and actions of Palestinian youth. This new generation responds to a world of walls, checkpoints and arrests in an unexpected and inspiring way—through the thrilling sport of parkour—the act of moving rapidly through an urban environment while negotiating obstacles by running, jumping and climbing. Hurdle’s protagonists, Sami and Mohammad, begin teaching the creative practices of parkour and photography, respectively, to the youth of their communities as a means to overcome the personal and political obstacles that often feel inescapable. Though these young men are separated by a wall, they are united in leading the next generation toward freedom and self-determination through non-violent, creative practices.
With breathtaking visuals, amazing access and action-packed scenes, Hurdle provides an edge-of-your-seat look at an old conflict. From gunshot wounds and arrests, to brotherhood and faith, the film navigates the politics of the region through the first-hand experience of the characters, revealing a deeply personal and human investigation of the lives of the Muslim youth of Palestine in the Occupied Territories. The story provides an opportunity for a diverse audience to connect on a human level with a community that is underrepresented in the mainstream narrative. In a time when the global conversation is focused on wall-building and dehumanizing “the other,” Hurdle not only documents the evolution of an age-old conflict, but stands as a global harbinger.
Sami, a 24-year-old Palestinian living in Occupied East Jerusalem is the founder and coach of the Jerusalem Parkour team. He taught himself parkour by watching videos on YouTube. Sami’s passion is unwavering as he teaches youth ages eight to 21 to overcome fear and avoid political danger by finding strength in parkour.
Mohammad, a 26-year-old Palestinian in the Occupied West Bank, is a photojournalist and the director of the media unit of Aida Refugee Camp’s Lajee Center. A lifetime resident of the camp, Mohammad uses his skills in photography to document life under military occupation. He teaches the children of the camp to use photography as an escape from daily pressures and encourages them to tell stories about themselves, because they are human and should be viewed as such in the eyes of the world.
“With my evangelical upbringing in Amarillo, Texas, came not only principles and theology, but a way to view the world. For many evangelicals, the standard for approaching the Israeli/Palestinian conflict should be nothing less than an unquestioning and adamant support for all Israeli policy,” said Hurdle director Michael Rowley. “As I studied and deconstructed my worldview and religious affiliations, this conflict came into closer personal focus and scrutiny. I made my first journey to the region in 2015 working with an NGO that focused on sharing stories of those who have experienced loss, and I learned of young Palestinians who were addressing these physical barriers with defiance and creativity through parkour and photography. They represent the people my past community often misunderstood. By offering an intimate look at the hopes and challenges of these young men, I hope Hurdle will act as a catalyst for better conversations and understanding.”