Ahki: Brothers Beyond Fate
In 2008 I created fran tarr productions dedicated to “Giving voice to teens surviving chaos and conflict.” My first documentary bethlehem to brooklyn: breaking the surface (b2b) was an Official Selection at the 2010 Hoboken International Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Documentary. My second documentary was brooklyn bridges- to bethlehem & back (bb). These documentaries demonstrate how using words to combat and describe their daily struggles, teens discover how a grassroots movement does empower the lives of children living in chaos and conflict. brooklyn bridges’ positive response led me to create breaking walls in 2011 — a global arts activism program empowering youth to discover their voice and take their place on the world stage through the arts and face-to-face dialogue. Berlin was the community for our initial breaking walls program in July 2012. Over nine-days 16 new writer-performers from Bethlehem, Brooklyn and Berlin experienced writing-performing, face-to-face dialogue and explored Berlin together.
My documentary work led to breaking walls that in-turn triggered my culminating documentary — Akhi: Brothers Beyond Fate — the story of Mohammad, a Muslim teen in Bethlehem, and, Ryan, a Black young man in Brooklyn. Both face lives of chaos and conflict, but neither joins a jihad or a gang; instead, they participate in a writing group that spans 5,000 miles and ignites a grassroots movement for positive change. Together, the “brothers” take their place on the world stage as creative leaders. The film delves beneath superficial renderings of at-risk youth and challenges the broad strokes painted in the media. More importantly, it imbues the audience with wonder and lets them marvel at the brothers’ ability to convert the impediments of their environments into mechanisms for advancement.
Meet Mohammad. He lives in with his mother, father, two sisters and brother in Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, Occupied Territories.“Living in a refugee camp is not easy especially if you are forced to live in one. Even though the camp is small and crowded, and every day you are fearful, I feel I have a responsibility to my family, my people and myself to create a better future. I am strong in contrast to the weakness of the situation in the camp. I have my goals that I want to achieve.
“Joining the documentaries makes me feel that I’m not alone. No matter if you are black or white, what language you speak, or which area you live in—WE are all humans and share the same interests and problems with few differences. I learned a lot from being a breaking walls facilitator. It is very important to find yourself—to discover what you are capable of doing, and look for the beauty in everything; then, you will be a person who truly knows himself.”
Meet Ryan. He lives in Bed-Stuy,Brooklyn with his grandmother, mother, sister and brother. “Growing up in Brooklyn all these years has taught me to always to expect the unexpected, especially with opportunities that come once in a lifetime. Being in these three documentaries and now breaking walls is one of those opportunities.
“I’d never been out of Brooklyn, so the trips to Bethlehem in the Middles-East and then Berlin had me very excited. People in this world might look at me in the same negative light after all these experiences but it will not bother me because this whole Bethlehem to Brooklyn to Berlin experience has taught me that you should never judge people, because you never know what they carry on their shoulders, where they have been, or who they truly are. If people don’t take the time to talk to each other, they think the worst.”
Akhi: Brothers Beyond Fate intends to achieve three goals:
• Reveal the resilience and power of teens throughout the world;
• Trigger open, honest dialogue around the issues of misperceptions, intolerance and breaking the boundaries of expectations placed on at-risk youth;
• Create an ongoing platform for domestic and international change and connection for youth through breaking walls.
As technology shrinks many barriers in a global society, hatred proves a persistent impediment. Youth inheriting a conflict-ridden world can choose sides in the conflict, numb themselves with distraction, or confront the source of hatred: prejudice. Nowhere are the choices more apparent than in the Middle East and on the streets of Brooklyn. Ahki: Brothers Beyond Fate follows two young men who, tugged in many directions by “haters,” “fakes,” and the ubiquitous “everyone,” choose a proactive path to transformation.
As producer and director of bethlehem to brooklyn: breaking the surface and brooklyn bridges – to bethlehem & back, I shared the resilience of Brooklyn and Palestinian teens as they prove they are not victims or predators, but instruments for rectifying misconceptions. My documentary work led to breaking walls, a non-profit international writing-performing program and the focus of my culminating documentary, Ahki: Brothers Beyond Fate