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Punk Rock in Israel - this sounds like one of these columns in Maximum
Rock'n'Roll we used to read back in the days. About a scene in a very
small exotic country with lots of addresses at the very end to write to
and to ask bands for a demo tape. A world wide scene was created that
way - ask Jello Biafra about it. Nowadays nobody does that anymore.
There are way too many local bands in your own city that don't amaze
you. Who really wants to know how punk rock sounds in Kyrgyzystan or
Gabun or another place you can't think of right now?
What we got here is a whole documentary about the Israeli scene - 'Jericho's Echo - Punk Rock in the Holy Title' is the title and it was done by the Jewish American Liz Nord in true DIY style. It is no surprise that Liz used to work for a punk rock label and for Maximum Rock'n'Roll, the mother of all scene reports. The movie is very thrilling, and interestingly this has nothing to do with the bands. The music is quite variable within the Hardcore & Punk genre. And the only one known outside Israel are Useless I.D. who toured the USA and within Europe and who are the Israeli version of the famous Fat Wreck sound. The other bands are totally unknown, very young and in their very early stages of finding their own sound. You find Streetpunk as well as Emo and even NY Hardcore (and the band that plays it is as much cliché as you'd expect). A lot of times this is nice and okay to listen to, but if the documentary would feature a list of all the contacts to the bands in true MRR style you wouldn't miss much if you'd don't write them. In a world with way too may bands most of them are just another band. And no new Fugazi, to say it this way.
But why is 'Jericho's Echo' a music documentary that is thrilling and a must-see anyhow? Because in our world punk and hardcore became just another style of music. A career choice, if you see how many Emo bands break the charts. It doesn't matter if we listen to the Dead Kennedys now and afterward to Bruce Springsteen. It's just music we consume. In Israel choosing to be a punk has massive consequences - Judaism doesn't like tattoos for example, and if you decide to be a Peace Punk and don't want to join the army you might end up with the label "psychopath" printed into your I.D.
So how do punks as a not so beloved minority think in a country which is even less popular in its region? What is their perspective on society, on the conflict with the Palestinians? The great thing is that the movie doesn't use clichés. As an outsider you'd like to hear how the whole conflict started, but Palestinians and Israelis are like chicken and egg. The movie doesn't want to take sides, Liz just listened to what people said. And so we find calls for peace and coexistence as much as people who prefer an Israeli dominance. At the same time everybody has to deal with fear and the loss of friends who got killed by suicide bombers. The statements Liz filmed are truly authentic and deep from the heart. And they show what Hardcore is all about - that it's more than music. And this movie is more than just (a) music (documentary) too.
And now got out and watch this!
This was a powerful film, full of insights we are not often given the opportunity to see & hear. These thoughtful, sad, ironic comments come straight from the punk musicians and their fan base in Israel. Filmmaker Liz Nord has an uncanny way of getting straight to the heart of the challenges these kids face when they turn 18 and are required by law to enter the army. Watching the kids try to follow their hearts & their consciences is a remarkable journey & Nord does a spectacular job of staying true to her mission of showing us their plight. Often heartbreaking as the musicians talk about their goals in life, their losses & their deep feelings about their country, this film is a must-see for anyone who has ever struggled with life-altering decisions.
I saw a preview of this film at the Lost Film Fest in Philly and was psyched to see the final cut at the BAM Rose Cinema complex in Brooklyn this past spring. I knew little about punk and hardcore and nearly nothing about this slice of youth culture in Israel (or any there for that matter)before the viewings, and I was completely sucked in by the candid cast of characters and the contrast it provided to my regular diet of CNN/big media coverage of Israel and the Middle East. If you don't have a direct stake or connection to the conflict, it is hard to grasp the day-today pressures and imagine how people your age there are coping. This is a picture of how a musically inclined, creative and often rebellious group of youth (on the left and the right side of the politics of it all) have done just that. I wish I could hear them speak again per the conflict's recent escalation and hope they are all well.
Yes, you get a soundtrack that you can bang your head to.
Yes, you get kids with spiky hair and spiky things through their body parts.
But you also get so much more - commentary from a largely secular movement in a largely religious society, thoughts about militarism and resistance, personal stories about fallen friends...
Liz Nord does a great job of sharing the fun and chaos of the punk scene in Israel along with the reality (and chaos) of the context which these punks are challenging with their lifestyle and their music.
A keeper for any punk at heart.
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