Roxy Rezvany on her new film Wifi Rider and the art of Palestinian diaspora in Jordan
We talk to the filmmaker and producer about her new film which follows the life of Palestinian artist Shukri in breathtaking fashion.
- 8 September 2021
- Joey Levenson
- Reading Time
- 4 minutes
It’s clear by now that Roxy Rezvany is a force to be reckoned with in the world of documentary. Having mastered her craft with the impeccably filmed and insightful short Little Pyongyang, Roxy has gone on to refine her artistic talent and fine-tune her politically adept voice. Now, she returns with Wifi Rider, a new documentary short about a young Palestinian artist and designer named Shukri. “The film covers [Shukri]’s battles with loneliness growing up whilst queer and Palestinian in East Jerusalem,” Roxy explains. “Eventually, despite turning to the internet as escape, he finds that the Western lens which permeates much of the internet is just as imposing and might have clouded his view of the Arab world around him.” It’s a completely unique and dynamic story, one Roxy professes a lot of gratitude and collaborative credit to Shukri for. “There is no master interview, no special set, and instead we hear Shukri’s voice in audio and otherwise observe the world he has created himself,” Roxy tells It’s Nice That. “My approach as a documentary filmmaker still follows the same instincts, but in comparison to Little Pyongyang, I adapted my specific creative approach based on the subject matter, story and contributors.”
Aided by the beautiful camerawork of Isaac Eastgate and Jaime Ackroyd, Roxy filmed in Amman, the capital of Jordan – a welcome change to her previous London endeavours. It’s where Shukri is based, and got his start as an artist. “Shukri and I connected through the internet,” Roxy tells us of how she found herself in Amman. “I’d been researching the work of Palestinians in fashion for an investigative TV show called States of Undress where we were looking at the fashion industry in places that were launching their first fashion weeks.” In her research, Roxy research found that Palestinian-owned businesses have trouble growing in the West Bank or Gaza because of the various restrictions of occupation that place pressure on the otherwise-regular operations of a brand. “Many of the brands have to relocate to Amman in Jordan,” she says.
Following this line of research, Roxy came in touch with Shukri via his clothing line tRASHY. “What struck me was his openness about his own journey with wanting to move abroad in order to pursue his dreams, but then realising that part of making work on his own terms included being based in the place he recognises as home,” Roxy says of Shukri. Hot off the start of their friendship, “the film was shot on 16mm, over the course of three trips to Amman between 2018 and 2019.” Roxy also integrated Shukri's own archive alongside her footage, as well as weaving in animations that he’d created. Overall, it was the decision to shoot on film which was most important for Roxy. “I feel that there's a tendency with films about ‘youth and the internet’ to wed those stories to a digital aesthetic, but I think it would have belied the real intensity of Shukri's emotions,” Roxy tells us. “It was also about contrasting our imagery with the types of portrayals that Shukri had seen online of Arab men, women and cities that fuel the negative stereotypes, and the media that only shows Palestinian identity in the context of war.”
Ultimately, Roxy hopes viewers of Wifi Rider can interpret the film as they see fit. “I tried to approach the film without an agenda,” Roxy explains. But, with that said, she still remains hopeful that “those who are unaware of the scope of the Palestinian diaspora created by the displacement experienced for generations” can learn something about the history of Palestine, if only small. “And for those who might not know about the diaspora of Palestinians in Jordan particularly, I hope the film offers an insight into the amazing creative scene there.” Wifi Rider, whilst focused on Shukri and his incredible work, maps out to other creatives such as Omar Braika (co-running tRASHY and co-founder of Cyber Fashion Week) and magazines such as My.Kali “and other creatives that Shukri has collaborated with such as Solenne Tadros, Reem Kawasmi, Luai al-Shuaibi, and Sereen Khass,” Roxy lists.
Now, Shukri continues his work with tRASHY and Omar, in their first in-person store. Meanwhile, Roxy has just completed a new scripted film project called Honesty which will be screening at the British Film Institute next month as part of the London Film Festival’s London Calling programme.
GalleryRoxy Rezvany: Wifi Rider (Copyright © Roxy Rezvany, Isaac Eastgate, Jaime Ackroyd 2021)
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Roxy Rezvany: Wifi Rider (Copyright © Roxy Rezvany, Isaac Eastgate, Jaime Ackroyd 2021)