Movie Review: Junction 48 in three tracks
By Anton Constantinou
The craze this side of the Millennium has been for biopics, hence 8 Mile, Notorious and, more recently, Straight Outta Compton.
Hip Hop even has its own Netflix series, The Get Down. Getting stuff out isn’t the problem, it’s the staying original bit that’s hard. A sense in which the same stories have been done a million times over and are now clichés.
Junction 48, which recently featured at this year’s BFI london Film Festival, breaks new ground by combining rap music with conflict in the Middle East. Udi Aloni’s drama film tells the story of a Palestinian music couple caught up in a life of oppression and looking for a way out.
Real life Arab-Israeli rapper, Tamer Nafar, plays the main character, Kareem: a local performer who dreams of becoming a crossover artist. Partner, Manar, (Samar Qupty), meanwhile, is an aspiring singer. Both meet their fair share of opposition: Kareem comes to blows with a bunch violent nationalistic Jewish rappers, while Manar is discriminated against and threatened by her cousins for becoming the poster girl to a hip hop concert. The prejudice she experiences is largely gender-led, his, borne out of bigotry and racial hate. Question is: will their love endure and carry them through, or will they be resigned to the same fate as others around them.
For those less familiar with the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, getting your head around the context of the film is no easy task. Pay attention to the soundtrack however, and you begin to get an understanding of the key sentiments driving it. Here are three songs we’ve hand picked from the film which tell a story all on their own:
Song: Ya Reit (if only)
Key line: “Let us go as we are/A free lover and her poet”
Kareem and Manar’s journey is neatly summed up here as a quest for peace and self expression. A “song of cliches” isn’t an option, and the reality of their situation is a leaky roof and love songs in drawers.
The sombre guitar strings and heavy drums only reinforce the “demon of oppression” beating down on this track, which, for most part, is a cry for help.
Song: Ehreg, George (burn it, George)
Key line: “The light at the end of the tunnel/ Is actually the light of a siren”
An age-old expression is turned on its head to show that the end of one problem is, but, the start of another. The said siren is of course a police car, and the call to “burn it” means to rule out corruption. Nafar’s take on Fuck Tha Police is uptempo and playful in tone. Mocking the authorities, he asks, should we “empty our pockets” and “spread our legs too?”
Song: I’m Not Political
Key Line: “I am not political, I am not political”
What Kareem is getting at here is that he doesn’t wish to be political, but circumstances have forced him into being that way. The unlawful bulldozing of his friends home to make way for a museum has given him no option but to challenge the very system he lives by, much in the same way that UK rapper, Jehst, does in China Shop Taurus.
The word “coexistence” has a contradictory meaning in this song which Nafar criticises closely. Why eat our “humus, salad, fries on the side” at a restaurant if the mere presence of Arabic people there poses a “demographic threat” he asks us. Coexistence also refers the name of the museum being built – ironic when you consider that it’s actually separating people rather than bringing them together.
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