Skip Navigation

In ‘Hurdle,’ Two Palestinian Men Seek Personal Freedom Through Creative Expression 16

The Dallas International Film Festival premiered a unique documentary this weekend about two Palestinians living on opposite sides of Jerusalem. They both have the same dream – to prepare the next generation of young people – but their approach is miles apart. One man is a photographer and documentary filmmaker. The other a coach of a street gymnastics team. The Texas Standard’s Laura Rice spoke with the Michael Rowley, the film’s director, get a better perspective about the film and how Rowley’s personal experience shaped the making of the documentary.  

Michael Rowley directed the new documentary, “Hurdle,” a story of two young men living in the Palestinian territories. One of them, named Sami, lives in east Jerusalem and is the coach of a parkour team. Rowley describes parkour as a dynamic, gymnastics-based sport; there’s a lot of running, jumping, flipping over walls, climbing walls and jumping from rooftop to rooftop.

Rowley says Mohammad, who lives in the Aida refugee camp on the West Bank, is “leading the next generation of Palestinians”; he teaches photography and storytelling to children in the camp.

Rowley says inspiration for the film came from his childhood experiences.

“I grew up in the Panhandle of Texas, in a very conservative and evangelical Christian family and community,” Rowley says. “I was raised in this environment where I was taught to one-hundred percent support all Israeli policy, and I didn’t really have a grasp of what that meant for Palestinians on the ground, and what their experience was.”

Daily life for Palestinians is different from what some might expect, Rowley says.

”Palestinians are surrounded by these separation walls; there are sniper towers; they must pass through checkpoints on a daily basis,” Rowley says.

He says he hopes the film gets people thinking not only about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but about the United States’ own politics that are intertwined with it.

“Hurdle” made it’s world premiere this weekend, and will also play at film festivals and community screenings throughout the year, worldwide.

Written by Brooke Reaves.