We went to the Holy Land with Dr. Clay Carson, who runs the Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute, to film his play about King performed by the Palestinian National Theatre and an African-American gospel choir which was presented to audiences all over the West Bank. It was an intense cultural exchange between two peoples encompassing the joy of new friendships, creative collaborations and eye opening experiences. No one who participated remained unchanged.
We traveled through the Holy Land that the Christian choir were so passionately excited to see, as they were introduced to the other side of the land where Jesus once walked: a man whose front yard has been bisected by the Security Wall and whose children have to play in the dust of its continued construction; the ease with which they as foreigners were able to pass through checkpoints while their Palestinian counterparts took hours to navigate the same distance; a home which had no water because a settlement had taken over their well, where Palestinian women teach them songs in Arabic and join them in singing American gospel songs. And yet, amidst the hardships of occupied life, the choir is greeted with food, humor, and generosity, a mixture that brought some of them to tears.
We also captured the growing non-violent movement of young people in Palestine, who are much like their peers in Egypt and Tunisia--bright, well-educated, social media savvy and deeply committed. They are on the move, changing hearts and minds. Our film brings a fresh perspective in understanding the realities of Palestinian life under occupation and introduces people to the young Palestinians who are changing the landscape non-violently.
Funding for this project was provided by the Berkeley Film Foundation; The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute; the Fleishhacker Foundation; the Open Society Institute Matching Gift Program; the Samuel Rubin Foundation; the San Francisco Foundation Documentary Fund and our Kickstarter backers. Thank you all for the support.
Meet the cast and choir of The Passages of Martin Luther King.
View photos from the play.
"Al Helm is a revelatory documentary film mapping the conflict in the Middle East
through issues at the heart of contemporary American Studies concerns."
Judith E. Smith, Professor of American Studies, University of Mass Boston