Ahki: Brothers Beyond Fate

first understanding then change

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 workshop in July 2012. Over nine-days 16 new writer-performers from Bethlehem, Brooklyn and Berlin experienced writing-performing and face-to-face dialogue while exploring Berlin together.

My documentary work led to breaking walls that in-turn triggered my focus on my culminating documentary- Ahki: Brothers Beyond Fate. I am in full-throttle editing mode on this compilation film using the most compelling moments from b2b, bb and new breaking walls 2012 Berlin footage. Ahkui- My Bro will be the story of Mohammad, a Muslim teenage man in Bethlehem; and, Ryan, a Black teen in Brooklyn- both facing lives of daily chaos and conflict but don’t join a jihad or a gang- they take the risk to join a writing group spanning 5,000 miles discovering they possess the potential to ignite a grassroots movement for positive change and they take their place as creative leaders on the world stage. Witnessing Mohammad and Ryan move through their journey is a revelation and an inspiration.

Akhui- My Bro intends to achieve three goals:
Ӣ Reveal the resilience and power of teens throughout the
Ӣ Trigger open, honest dialogue around the issues of misperceptions, intolerance and breaking the boundaries of expectations placed on at-risk youth
Ӣ Create an ongoing platform for domestic and international change and connection for youth via breaking walls.

With 52% of the world’s population under the age of 21, teens remain misunderstood and underrepresented. Coming-of-age in their world where there’s little safety and less peace is no easy-going task. Amid the chaos these young men and women struggle for a sense of normalcy, control, and the ideals they believe are right. As they navigate towards the bright, happy futures they desire, their choices are sometimes inspirational, sometimes bad and scary– demonstrating that coming-of-age and activism define and shape individual lives.

As social change sweeps across the Middle East, blasts across American TV screens and online media two unresolved issues till confront the youth who will soon be our movers, shakers and leaders: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the re-emergence of corrosive racism in the US. Ahkui- My Bro can galvanize positive change with its moral vision of two young men, strangers four years-ago- both tugged in many directions by haters, fakes and the “ubiquitous” everyone; yet, chose to travel a proactive rather than reactive path to transformation, role-modeling and leadership.

Ahkui- MyBro shakes up the stereotypes of Palestinian and African-American youth as jihadis and gangstas. The audience will get to know both these young men intimately as they see the shocking circumstances from which each comes and returns to on a daily basis. The audience will watch them navigate a threatening world, share their dreams, love of their families, and balance the push-and-pull of their peers as they become transformed through the process of writing and performing their original work. Ahkui- My Bro delves beneath the superficial renderings of the media, challenging the broad stroke view painted in print, TV and film, and can’t help but encourage the audience to wonder and marvel at how some human beings find the resiliency to channel their dark side into a mechanism to move forward.

The writing and performing by breaking walls 2012 Berlin youth was open, honest and heart-felt; the creation of our performance required dedication and hard work on everyone’s part; so the enthusiastic and supportive response from the audience to their original Collage Play created from the writing made every aspect of writing and rehearsing worthwhile.

Every scratch of a pen, each spoken word, each bonding moment motivates me to move forward towards breaking walls 2013 and beyond. breaking walls is considering collaborations with youth in Athens, Chicago, Dublin or Johannesburg for 2013.

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