Friday, May 30, 2014

Raffoul Raps in Bethlehem

In terms of hip-hop, I admit to perpetually playing a game of catch-up with the new releases.  In fact, I am so behind the times on hip-hop, I have yet to begin listening to post-mortem Tupac and won't even try to summarize my relationship to Wu-Tang Clan after the death of Ole Dirty Bastard (ODB).  However, some of that can be ascribed to the fact that the whole gangsta sub-genre, much like punk rock, has been reduced to commercialized pornography, lacking substance or ideological value.  As Green Day became poppy and overly maudlin after DOOKIE, so too gangsta has become a commercial for idiotic posturing.  The explicit point of Tupac was never the violence; rather, the essence was a sort of ontological statement, a declaration on what being an African-American truly was like, as opposed to the idealized political correctness of Bill Clinton.
In this sense, Raffoul's rap is perhaps the best gangsta rap I have heard in two decades, for basic reasons.  First, the lyrical content is excellent.  In comparison to Matisyahu, who has always pushed obstructionist theories like the Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and a lot of mystical nonsense  dressed in reggae beats, this is an honest and painful rap.  Second, that moment of mystical break between the real and the cinematic, a point constantly appearing in Palestinian cinema, is on display here, in that production of the music video was disrupted at one point by IDF soldiers firing tear gas at protestors.  This idea of "Reality Breaking Into the Real" is one based in the idea of mise-en-scene.  The study of cinema in general includes a dissection of mise-en-scene, the elements that make up the shot of the film, such as:

  • Set design- An important element of "putting in the scene" is set design—the setting of a scene and the objects (props) visible in a scene. Set design can be used to amplify character emotion or the dominant mood, which has physical, social, psychological, emotional, economic and cultural significance in film.[4] One of the most important decisions made by the production designer and director is deciding whether to shoot on location or on set. The main distinction between the two is that décor and props must be taken into consideration when shooting on set. However, shooting on set is more commonly done than shooting on location as a result of it proving to be much more cost effective.
  • Lighting- The intensity, direction, and quality of lighting can influence an audience’s understanding of characters, actions, themes and mood. Light (and shade) can emphasize texture, shape, distance, mood, time of day or night, season, glamour; it affects the way colors are rendered, both in terms of hue and depth, and can focus attention on particular elements of the composition. Highlights, for example, call attention to shapes and textures, while shadows often conceal things, creating a sense of mystery or fear. For this reason, lighting must be thoroughly planned in advance to ensure its desired effect on an audience. Cinematographers are a large part of this process, as they coordinate the camera and the lighting.
  • Space- The representation of space affects the reading of a film. Depth, proximity, size and proportions of the places and objects in a film can be manipulated through camera placement and lenses, lighting, set design, effectively determining mood or relationships between elements in the story world.
  • Composition- The organization of objects, actors and space within the frame. One of the most important concepts with the regard to the composition of a film is maintaining a balance of symmetry. This refers to having an equal distribution of light, color, and objects and/or figures in a shot. Unbalanced composition can be used to emphasize certain elements of a film that the director wishes to be given particular attention to. This tool works because audiences are more inclined to pay attention to something off balance, as it may seem abnormal.
  • Costume- Costume simply refers to the clothes that characters wear. Using certain colors or designs, costumes in narrative cinema are used to signify characters or to make clear distinctions between characters.
  • Makeup and hair styles- Establish time period, reveal character traits and signal changes in character.
  • Acting- There is enormous historical and cultural variation in performance styles in the cinema. In the early years of cinema, stage acting and film acting were difficult to differentiate, as most film actors had previously been stage actors and therefore knew no other method of acting.  Eventually, early melodramatic styles, clearly indebted to the 19th century theater, gave way in Western cinema to a relatively naturalistic style. This more naturalistic style of acting is largely influenced by Constantin Stanislavski’s theory of method acting, which involves the actor fully immersing themselves in their character.
  • Film stock- The choice of black & white or color, fine-grain or grainy.  (Note: In 21st Century, evolution and availability of digital video has re-defined notion of 'film stock';  previously, mechanical and chemical treatment of film stock resulted in image as was shot in the camera.  In 21st century, this has been re-defined as a further step in post-production using computer editing software.)
  • Aspect ratio- The relation of the width of the rectangular image to its height. Each aspect ratio yields a different way of looking at the world and is basic to the expressive meaning of the film.
  • Character Placement- Where the director places the character varies depending on the importance of the role.

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