In ‘Hurdle,’ Two Palestinian Men Seek Personal Freedom Through Creative Expression

Director Michael Rowley says growing up in the Texas Panhandle, he didn’t really have a grasp of what life was like for Palestinians.

By Laura RiceApril 12, 2019 12:49 pm,

Michael Rowley directed the new documentary, “Hurdle,” a story of two young men living in the Palestinian territories. One of them, named Sami, lives in east Jerusalem, and is the coach of a parkour team. Rowley describes parkour as a dynamic, gymnastics-based sport; there’s a lot of running, jumping, flipping over walls, climbing walls and jumping from rooftop to rooftop.

Rowley says Mohammad, who lives in the Aida refugee camp on the West Bank, is “leading the next generation of Palestinians”; he teaches photography and storytelling to children in the camp.

Rowley says inspiration for the film came from his childhood experiences.

“I grew up in the Panhandle of Texas, in a very conservative and evangelical Christian family and community,” Rowley says. “I was raised in this environment where I was taught to one-hundred percent support all Israeli policy, and I didn’t really have a grasp of what that meant for Palestinians on the ground, and what their experience was.”

Daily life for Palestinians is different from what some might expect, Rowley says.

”Palestinians are surrounded by these separation walls; there are sniper towers; they must pass through checkpoints on a daily basis,” Rowley says.

He says he hopes the film gets people thinking not only about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but about the United States’ own politics that are intertwined with it.

“Hurdle” premieres at the Dallas International Film Festival this weekend, and will also play at film festivals and community screenings throughout the year, worldwide.

Written by Brooke Reaves.