The Children of Ibdaa:
To Create Something Out of Nothing
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Frequently Asked Questions

What's a short description of the film?

The Children of Ibdaa: To Create Something Out of Nothing is about a Palestinian children's dance troupe from a West Bank refugee camp. The children use their performance to express the history, struggle, and aspirations of the Palestinian people. The video intertwines the vibrant and sometimes somber stage performance with images and interviews depicting life under occupation in a refugee camp. The video also chronicles a unique visit taken by the children to visit their grandparents' villages in present day Israel.

What was the inspiration for the film?

After living in Tel Aviv and traveling through Israel proper, I felt I had an idea about the Israeli side of the conflict, but was surprised by how little I knew about the Palestinians. I began to visit the Arab world and also traveled as part of a fact-finding delegation through which I met with Israelis and Palestinians, conservatives and liberals from both factions.

On this tour each person I met brought forth a new facet of information and emotion, further illustrating the complexity of the conflict.

I was struck by the fact that only the refugees live behind barbed wire and are denied basic human rights. Despite their brutal reality, I found the Palestinian refugee community to be epitomal of Arab culture- The Palestinians are a friendly, hospitable, dignified People, They are proud of their culture and heritage; hence the struggle for their homeland. Though they are impoverished in many ways, their spirit triumphs. This is what inspired me.

When I met the kids from the Ibdaa Dance Troupe I was in awe. Despite the harshness of their lives, these kids articulate their struggle in a creative and non-violent way.

I had a unique opportunity to videotape the Ibdaa Dance Troupe when they came to the Bay Area in 1999 as part of their North American tour, sponsored by the Berkeley based Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA). MECA Director Barbara Lubin then sent me to the refugee camp to experience life with the kids. I ended up spending six weeks with them there.

Were there any unusual circumstances?

The question many people ask is 'How did you get the Palestinian kids through the Israeli checkpoints?' so that they could visit their grandparents' villages in what is now Israel.

When the film was shot in January 2000 movement for Palestinians was restricted, but not as severe as it is today. All vehicles had license plates color-coded so that the soldiers could easily identify the car owner when the car approached the checkpoint. Cars with Palestinian plates were stopped for questioning.

My friend the activist Shirabe Yamada had the great idea to rent a tourist van in Jerusalem, which would have license plates from Israel. We sat in front and piled the kids in back. We were waved through three checkpoints.

Today this could never happen. When I was in the West Bank during the summer of 2002 shooting the follow-up feature 'Greetings From Palestine, no one was allowed on the streets. Palestinians were under curfew, meaning they couldn't leave their homes. Israelis are forbidden by their own government from going into the Palestinian territories, and foreigners are prevented from entering, though there are still ways of getting in.

When I showed the kids the film, we marveled at how times had changed; we thought the times were difficult then, but in comparison to today, those days were idyllic.

What was the film's budget and where'd the money come from?

I paid for almost everything through student loans; the film is my thesis for an M.F.A. in Cinema from San Francisco State University. I'm facing the loan payback now and it's daunting.

The project was crucially influenced by the following donations:

The Middle East Children's Alliance paid for my flight and sound mix.
Philo Television donated the use of an Avid editing system.
The Agape Foundation awarded a Distribution grant.

What are your aspirations and dreams for the project?

I hope that the film can be used as an educational tool to reveal the human element of the Palestinian people. That people gain a sense of these fantastic kids- articulate and peaceful individuals who contradict our media's suggestion that all Palestinian kids are stone throwers and potential suicide-bombers.

What's your previous experience with film?

Prior to this I had made one other film for film school. It is called Commute and is a comedic look at the pros and cons of biking versus driving in the city. The Children of Ibdaa: To Create Something Out of Nothing is my thesis.

During the summer of 2002, I spent 3 months re-visiting the same kids and community in the West Bank and shot the follow-up feature to The Children of Ibdaa: To Create Something Out of Nothing. It will be about the harsh reality of living in a Palestinian refugee camp under Israeli occupation.

In September 2002 I shot a documentary in the Central Australian desert about elderly Aboriginal Artists who paint their cultural 'Dreamings,' to represent their history, spiritual beliefs, and myths as a way of continuing their heritage.

My interest is to make films that explore human similarities and cultural differences, and that celebrate the unique aspects of cultures.