The trailer for Sleeping on Stones, the feature film that is the current project of American director Nicole Ballivian, made my heart leap. Perhaps it was the insistent drum roll that punctuated the 4-minute clip. According to a 15 November press release, the film
is set during the first Palestinian Intifada in Hebron. Two Palestinian boys and a Jewish-American settler boy form a bond through soccer but ten years later, are torn apart as their lives’ choices under Israeli occupation begin.
Where will this go? We won’t know unless the complete film is made, and that is far from guaranteed.
But as I see it, there’s no hint in the trailer, which was shot on location in Hebron last June, that this will be a “feel-good” movie about children coming together for “peace.” I read it as a story that grapples with the reality of proximity and how children negotiate it. Yet they grow up in a structure which guarantees and reproduces violence-enforced privilege for some, and oppression for the rest. That’s an all-too common story of course, but it’s how you tell it that counts.
First feature film to be shot in Hebron
Completing the film is going to require Ballivian to overcome some major hurdles. It will she says, be the first feature film to be shot in Hebron:
The Israeli general in charge of giving us permission to shoot outside the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque implored us to take nothing but our camera. He said the settlers are all strapped with guns and they do not hesitate to shoot. ‘You have to be careful. It’s the like the Wild West here,’ he said. I was amazed that a high-ranking Israeli soldier was afraid of settlers. I was more amazed that I was supposed to be afraid of Americans in Palestine.”
Of course the general might not see the irony that without his army there, the settlers would not be there either, harassing Palestinians and destroying their lives. The other major obstacle has been funding, which has pushed Ballivian to try to fundraise directly from the public:
“We’ve tried to raise funds for Sleeping on Stones for ten years. As there is scant finance for Palestinian films in the global film industry and the studios have no interest in producing such a film, it’s up to our audience now.”
Interestingly, the technique of direct fundraising from the potential audience has also recently been used by Palestinian hip-hop group DAM to complete their second album.
Perhaps this is an emerging trend to bypass the cultural gatekeepers who have kept Palestinian and Palestine-related culture out of the mainstream for so long?
Driving to Zigzigland
I reviewed Ballivian’s first feature film Driving to Zigzigland (2006). If it’s any indication, there’s no doubt Ballivian has what it takes to see Sleeping on Stones – an apparently even more ambitious project – through to completion. I can’t wait to see it.