Saturday, June 28, 2003

06.28.03...Only a week left?
I am leaving Israel about a week from today. Hard to believe how much I've seen and more importantly, thought about, in only three weeks so far. I'm now trying to decide what footage will be important to get in this last week.

One of my mentors in this project, Joe Rubin, warned me to keep in mind that just because I am documenting people, it doesn't mean that I am necessarily advocating their positions. I have taken this advice to heart, because I don't agree with some of the things people have said in interviews, but I've definitely come to a greater understanding of their points of view. One thing I DO hope I am able to convey in the final product is the real sweetness displayed by many of the punks I've spent time with. I mean, some of these guys are pretty rough and tumble, at least on the outside. A lot of people might cross the street if they saw them coming. But there have definitely been those moments where they let their guard down and some pretty raw emotions have shown through. I hope I can get those moments to come accross in the film. (Of course, if some of them read this they'd probably never let me out of the country with this footage!)

The interview with Choas Rabak last night went well, though they were a bit shy and goofy around the camera at first. Lesson learned--never let a group bring their friends to the interview...creates too many opportunities for showing off. Anyway, one of the things I appreciated most about what they were saying is that a positive aspect of being a band here, despite the lack of opportunities, is that because it's a small scene they have a greater chance of actually making a difference. In the states and Europe, there are so many bands and gigs that it all sort of blends together. Here, they feel that they can actually influence people. Ori, the led singer, explained that if they can make one kid "turn punk" then it's a great thing. I find this especially interesting in the context of a religious society. It's almost like a battle between the punks and the religious folks... a battle over the wills and fates of the young people here.

Friday, June 27, 2003

06.27.03...Been Caught Slackin'
Oy vey, behind on the blog again. I have actually taken a couple nights off from working, for events like Guy from Useless I.D.'s wedding!

Don't even have time to write now, as am off to interview Chaos Rabak, the "street punk" band I mentioned earlier. It should be great. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with my exciting news:

An article was written in Ha'aretz, the "New York Times of Israel", about the punk scene here, and I was mentioned! Avital helped me translate and it went something like this:

"Liz Nord, punk scene activist from San Francisco, is trying to document the growing trend. She is convinced that a movie about Israeli punk will interest international festivals for documentary movies."

Here only 2 weeks and I'm already in the paper! Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

06.23.03...So Many Shows, So Little Time
Wow, I am so behind on this here "blog" now. Finally, after my fourth show in as many days, I'm sitting down to write. Tough to decide where to maybe I'll start with last night and go backwards. Know, of course, that these entries only scratch the surface of all the bands I'm seeing and people I'm meeting. One of the great things about going to these shows has been that each one was at a different venue, so I think I've now been to all the venues that hold independent shows in Tel Aviv. One kid even said to me, "Now you've seen all the punk bands in Israel!"

Last night was the show that people have been talking to me about since I got here. The headliner was "Chaos Rabak," the biggest street punk band in Israel. These are what people call the "real" punks, if only because they look the most like the postcard punks from 1977. Indeed, there were so many mohawks there that I had to watch my eyes lest someone turned around too quickly. Imagine the street in front of the venue (Maccabi Music Factory), crowded with kids sporting mohawks, dyed hair, piercings, studded jackets and everything. Suddenly, a car pulls up and three religious guys get out, with their beards, long sideburns, and kippot on their heads. I think, "Uh oh, these guys are in trouble," but next thing I know one of the punk guys runs out and embraces one of the religious dudes. Turns out, they are brothers, and one of them is in Chaos Rabak. The religious brother came to see his punk brother perform. Now that is Israel. Finally, a great moment that I actually got on camera. Anyway, it was really a good show. Chaos Rabak lived up to their reputation. I'm going to try to interview them later this week.

The night before was quite a different show, but still many of the familiar faces were there. It was a benefit show, where you could bring donated food to get in instead of paying. In the entrance alley there were stands for different charity and activist organizations, all run by punks--Food Not Bombs and Animal Rights organizations. Punks always have such a bad reputation, but internationally punks are often associated with activism and positive social change. If only people understood...maybe someone should make a movie about it ;)

It was an all-night show, at a club called the Asylum, which is run by an older punk guy in a popular band and two partners. Apparently, anyone who wanted to could play the show and oh, they did! I got home around 5 A.M. I got some footage of many of the bands I've talked to so far. Va'adat Kishut (the girl hardcore band) blew me away. Their stage presence made them stand out. Gutzy's band played, and so did another political band called 'Nikmat Olalim,' who I interviewed at the show on Friday. The guys in this band are all 18 and therefore facing military service, but as far as I understand, none of them are going. They were able to convince the military psychiatrist that they are insane. I hear this same story from many of the punks here, and it's hard for me to understand how the army can mark so many young men as lunatics. One of the guys in the band had this to say: "It's pretty easy. If you don't want to be in the army, they think you're crazy."

On Saturday night I went to a show at a club called the Patifone,meaning Turntable in English. This place was really cool. It's run by one of Israel's only independent record labels, Fastmusic. As far as I understand, it may be the only label here which puts out anything punk-related. They own the club and a small recording studio, and all the bands on the label work at the club as part of their agreement for being signed. One of the women singers on the label, Michal Kahan, who was bartending that night, compared it to a Kibbutz. The actual club was so small. I think the maximum capacity is about 120. The floor in front of the stage is about the size of a standard American living room, and it had that kind of intimacy too.The first band that played is called "The Disposables," 15-year-old noise rockers. They had so much raw energy, it was great. I think Sonic Youth would be proud. The headlining band was called "Punkache," and we had a fantastic interview after the show. Punkache is a really goofy pop-punk band who sings in Hebrew. Strangely enough, that makes them unique in the punk scene here, but it gives them crossover appeal to Israelis outside the punk scene. Also unique in the scene, two of the three band members serve in the Army. They make an interesting contrast to some of the other bands I've met here. Plus, they were so funny that I actually laughed out loud during the interview. Damn! More editing nightmares...

So after going to all these shows I have even more food for thought. With about 2 weeks remaining on this journey, I now need to figure out what footage remians to be gotten to make a "completle" story out of this jumble.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

06.21.03...It's a Small World, Afterall
When I first arrived at the show yesterday, I was tempted to hide in the corner and try to disappear. There were a bunch of kids hanging out outside the show, and I didn't recognize anyone, and here I was with this camera, looking like Ms. CNN. It's such a small scene, though, that within a very short time, many of the people I've met so far showed up. There was Doh-Doh, the skateboarder from Be'er Sheva; Peleg and Alma, the girl hardcore rockers; Tom and Dennis, the Russian punks from Smash4$ offering me to drink some of their 'wodka', and of course Gutzy. My movie is actually starting to have "characters," and I am getting quite attached to them already.

It was an all-ages show and I got such a rush of memories seeing all the young kids there. The Lost Horizon in Syracuse saw me looking a little like that, coming to shows of my friend's bands a good 10 years ago (Has it really been that long?!). The show as put on by this kid called Baker, and it was his first time doing it. It was held at a Boy Scout's Club and the club was apparently reluctant to let them do the show there. The most precious moment of the evening was when one of the preppy Boy Scout types came to talk to Baker about the noise level, etc, and after he left Baker confessed to me,"He was pretty cool. I always thought he didn't like me." Awwww! The punk rocker's moment of acceptance. Of course, the camera was off. Damn!

Baker's bubble was burst by the end of the evening, however, as the electricity was cut off during the last band. Guess the punks overstayed their welcome in the neighborhood. More about the show to another one now!

Friday, June 20, 2003

06.20.03...Hot Time, Summer in the City
Late night Tel Aviv. Thursday night is the night to be out because the weekend here is Friday and Saturday, due to the Jewish Sabbath. I was wandering around the city last night after returning from Haifa. I was the antithesis of the "see and be seen" city folks, sipping on a pouch of chocolate milk as I passed by bars overflowing with well dressed, tan, gorgeous Israelis. There is something so comforting about that chocolatey beverage. It was great to be out alone, as I have so much on my mind from the week past. I am constantly puzzling about what the links are between the different interviews I've gotten and people I've met, and how this whole thing is going to pan out.

Today, I am headed to my first live show here. I am pretty nervous to go it alone, but it should be good. It's the last day of school here, and the concert is called,"School's Out, Let's Thrash!" Three of the bands on the show are having their debut performance, including Gutzy's band, and a band with Yotam's (from Useless I.D.) little brother! Should be a good opportunity to meet the youngn's.

My last day in Haifa was a fun one. Useless I.D. was shooting a music video for the song "The Worst Holiday I've Ever Had," and the concept is that Yotam is stuck on a horrible trip while the other three are having the time of their lives, playing sports and having fun with three pretty girls. The scenes shot yesterday were those with the girls, and it was definitely funny. The guys were wearing ridiculous outfits and just goofing around. It pretty much suits them. I took a lot of footage, particularly because it was the first time I have been with the band all together. Most of it was them speaking in Hebrew to each other or the director. It is, of course, their first language but...what the hell were they saying? I keep thinking that if I just listen long enough I'll start to understand what's going on. Hmmm, good thing people talk with their hands a lot here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

06.18.03...Be'er Sheva and Haifa
Haifa is such a beautiful city. It's built atop Mount Carmel and from the mountianside you can see the whole city and out into the Mediterranean. It's a far cry from what I saw of Be'er Sheva, which is the dusty desert city I was in yesterday. Dafna, the girl singer I met there, claimed that Be'er Sheva was the REAL Israel, because it it home to such a diversity of immigrants...from Ethiopia, Russia, etc.

Dafna was a ball. She's just made for the camera. I can't wait to see her band, Beer7, perform this weekend. She just turned 17, and already has her first meetings set up with the Army people. Crazy. We didn't really do an interview, but rather wandered around Be'er Sheva getting an impression of things. She had a good time telling people I was from an American news station and getting free stuff off of local business owners. (How punk rock! ha ha) We got some pretty good footage of one of her bandmates participating in a skateboarding demo. It was the first public skateboarding event in Be'er Sheva history. About time! I wonder why skateboarding and punk rock have always had a link. The guy who organized the event said it's because skaters and punks are all destroyers. I think this is partly true, but that both are also creators. Skaters are constantly building ramps and rails, and making playgrounds out of junkpiles. And punks break down old song structures or social structures, just to create new ones.

Anyway, I'm now in Haifa. I've had a couple of good interviews with Guy and Yotam from Useless I.D. It's amazing. All my "interviewees" so far have had pretty different answers to many of my questions, but the answer has been virtually the same for one question: "What does punk rock mean to you?" Older, younger, Russian, pop, political...they all answer, "FREEDOM." I am beginning to realize how important this concept or feeling of freedom is to these kids, who feel trapped in so many ways. They feel trapped by three years of obligatory military service, and a lifetime of reserve service following that. They can't move around freely, because there are security guards checking them in every public place. They are trapped in a situation that they didn't create but whose future is up to them. No wonder so many of them are clinging to this punk rock scene despite the pressures of society to follow a "normal" route.

Monday, June 16, 2003

06.16.03...Wow, I'm really making a movie
After a frustrating weekend of many roadblocks and not much action, things are finally really happening. If all goes as planned (ha ha), I am booked every day this week. I am off to Be'er Sheva, in the South, today, to talk to the 16-year-old girl singer of a ska-punk band. Tomorrow, up to Haifa, in the North, to finally spend some "quality time" with Useless I.D.
I may not have much Internet access for the next few dAYS, f.y.I.

Last night was crazy--I met up to interview some guys from the Oi punk band, Smash4$...Dennis and Tom. We were doing the interview in a mall, because that was the only place with enough light at night. The security (every public place has security can imagine why) wouldn't let them in with their beers (!) and as we waited on the sidewalk, a whole group of other punks showed up. It is such a small city and such a small scene. They were all speaking to each other in a mix of Russian and Hebrew. Turns out that many of the Israeli punks have Russian roots. Both Dennis and Tom are immigrants from Russia, and they were saying that Russians in Israel are often treated like outsiders, which may explain why so many of them are drawn to punk rock--a natural scene for those who don't always fit in in other palces.

After the interview we went to this square where they hang out and drink with the
other Tel Aviv punks. I got some good footage of the group just hanging and doing their thing, which I haven't really been able to get so far. Here's the crazy part: one of the kids lived in a punk squat near the square and he offered to show it to me. Of course, this was an opportunity I had to take! They had no electricity or water so i was shooting by candlelight and the whole time i was thinking, "This is just like in a movie!" hA hA. Five people stay on the top floor of an abandoned building in Tel Aviv. The walls are covered with grafitti like "Punk's not Dead." I couldn't see much because of the light, but I was really thinking about how THIS is what punk rock originally came out of. These kids are poor and don't feel like they have any future in Israel. I don't imagine that this is the life that their parents envisioned for them when they came from Russia. Anyway, it also made what Useless I.D. has sone seem so much more impressive...they are the ONLY punk band in the whole country who has gotten their shit together enough to get out and make an international name for themselves. Much to think about...

Friday, June 13, 2003

06.13.03...I'm so not Israeli
It's funny because in some ways I feel so immediately comfortable here. After all, as Ari said, these are my people. In other places I've travelled I've felt like a real foreigner, where I had to really watch my step so as not to make an ass out of myself. But here, I feel like I already know these people--I already fit in here. Part of that comes, of course, from my "imagined Israel"--the Holy Land I learned about in Hebrew school, but part of it is reality. EXCEPT--that I am so frustrated already at my own inability to match the assertiveness of the people I am trying to work with. I mean, people keep putting up roadbloacks to me and the project. They want to help, but on their terms. Everyone has an idea of what they want this movie to be, and it's like hey wait a minute--isn't this MY project?! But, of course, if they don't want me to film something then I can't get the footage. Avital says I am going about it in the wrong way...I am asking "Can I meet up with you with my camera?" instead of saying "Where are you? I'm coming to meet you with my camera." I am frustrated with them for not being more open and cooperative, and frustrated with myself for not being more agressive. Guess I'm just not Israeli enough...yet.

Anyway, that being said, I have gotten some interesting footage so far. Interviewing Gutzy was pretty cool. I was very surprised that he was only 18. He is a more "veteran" punk and so well connected in the scene, that I expected him to be older. Ishay said that a lot of kids get out of bands and stuff once they turn 18 and go to the army, so it will be interesting to see what happens to some of these kids who are so dedicated to the scene now. Gutzy is right on the verge of his army service and it is obviously something on his mind. He started to discuss his mixed feelings about it, how he doesn't support global armies in general but the situation in Israel is complicated--but then he wanted to change the topic. Hope to get him to talk more about it later.

The best part of the evening was meeting two of his girlfriends--Peleg and Alma--who are in an all-girl political hardcore band. I was supposed to go to their band practice today but they didn't call back. I wonder if it is because they practice at the Mapah (the place that didn't want to let me in). Hmmmmm. I hope to see them and talk to them some more because they were very personable and it's always good to showcase girls in the we'll see.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

06.12.03...Too much to say already!
So I got my first taste of the political punks yesterday. I was supposed to meet this guy Gutzy at the Mapah. Gutzy runs an Israeli punk and politics website where I did a lot of my research, and the Mapah is a political and social center where a lot of the political punks hang out, live, reharse and record their music. I was really excited to go there and see the center of Israeli D.I.Y. such luck...Gutzy called me up before we were supposed to meet and said that the people at the center didn't want cameras there--and they didn't want to have anything to do with Useless I.D. Damn!! I had a feeling it would be difficult to get through to these guys, because just like in any scene, there are people who are just "too punk for you." I am going to keep working on it though...I want them to realize that I am interested in the whole spectrum of opinion and style in the Israeli punk world, and I am not just making some promotional video for Useless I.D. Anyway, I ended up meeting Gutzy and a few of his friends at this huge book fair north of Tel Aviv. There were big stands from all the major publishers, and he and his friends were selling punk and anarchist zines from a blanket on the ground. It was great--more details soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

o6.11.03...To politic or not to politic
I'm soooo tired but I'll try to get a bit out. First of all, for those of you following me along here--DON'T WORRY! I'm sure you heard about the bombing in J-lem today. Well, I am still in Tel Aviv, far from Jerusalem and it feels like that happened on another planet. I haven't even heard the details myself. The people I've met act so casual about these things ("You get used to it.") but everyone knows about it almost as soon as it happens. The cell phone network is insane here.
Anyway, more about the day later but for now good night--sleep tight and know that I am safe. xoxox

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

06.11.03...Settling In...Sweat-ling In
Boy, it's pretty hot here!
Haifa was great--I was really spoiled having Ari there to help out. We did an interview with Ishay and Guy at Guy's work. Those two are so personable and such characters. It was a really good affirmation of my being here. Also, of course, they had some intersting things to say and they are pretty articulate. It's hard to imagine at this point what parts of the interview will end up being relevant to the movie but there were some good moments, for sure. One of the bis schisms in the punk scene here, as in other places, is between those bands who play highly charged political music and those who play more poppy stuff just for the music's sake. Useless I.D. falls into the latter category and they talked a bit about that--how their lives and situation here is so embroiled in politics that they want to get AWAY from that when they play--not delve into it further. I look forward to contrasting that with the more political punks when I get a chance to talk with them.

The guys were the most "on" of course when the camera was OFF--so lesson learned for me. I have to get them--and myself--used to having that thing on all the time!
06.10.03...We're rolling
So I was a little worried when I called Ishay's (from Useless ID) cell phone yesterday and all I heard was "Awww, fuuuck." Turns out it's his ansewering machine, and there's a message from me going Ïshay? Ishay? Hello?" What a punk. It's all good though--Ari and Ishay and I are supposed to head to Haifa today for the first band interview. Ari is going to interview them for an article in the Jerusalem Post but he's going to ask many of the questions I prepared. Might as well kill two birds with 1 stone and it'll be nice to have some support there with me for the first shoot. Just hope the guys are comfortable enough to open up to him. Am excited about the article too!

Monday, June 09, 2003

06.09.03...Israel, Baby

Arrived in Israel late last night. Cannot express how happy I am to be here. I have literally been talking, reading or thinking about this place every day for the past year, so it feels v. good to be's not just a place of our collective imaginations! It's real. People are living and bustling here in Tel Aviv just like any other city. I am staying with my friend Avital (Hallelujah!) and about to go meet another friend for lunch--Ari, the guy who is helping with the movie. Friends are the best. I already feel well taken care of (that's for you, mom and dad). Soon I'll get in touch with the Useless I.D. guys and then I'll really be rolling. (No pun intended).

Saturday, June 07, 2003

06.07.03...On My Way

Leaving for Israel in about 7 hours. Wow. I am excited. Hope this web log thing works and hope you guys will join me for the ride!