SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2012
By Don Simpson | January 30, 2012
Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi
Emad Burnat is from the Palestinian village of Bil’in. Burnat got his first video camera in February 2005 when his fourth son, Gibreel, was born. From that moment on, Burnat began documenting everything. Specifically, Burnat began to document the upheaval in Bil’in as the Israelis began to build a separation barrier thus stealing Palestinian land right out from under its rightful inhabitants. The struggle continued for more than five years as Burnat records the ever-tenacious Palestinians’ non-violent protests and the Israeli army’s ridiculously barbaric retaliations.
Burnat’s involvement with the Palestinian cause deepens as he shoots more and more footage, much to the chagrin of the Israeli army. His ever-presence at the protests — especially his refusal to turn his camera off — eventually begins to put his family and his own life at risk. Daily arrests and nightly raids hit closer and closer to home, as it seems all of Burnat’s friends and brothers have either been shot or arrested. Burnat goes through camera after camera as each one is either shot or smashed while in action; each of the five cameras’ lifespans recalls a unique chapter of Burnat’s narrative.
Winner of the World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary at Sundance 2012, 5 Broken Cameras gives us an up-close and personal look at what life near the Palestinian-Israeli boarder is really like. We observe as the people of Bil’in risk their lives, again and again and again, in feeble attempts to reclaim their land. They put their lives at stake every single time they face off against the trigger-happy Israeli soldiers. Palestinians are gassed, beaten and shot on what seems like a daily basis; Israeli soldiers even arrest Palestinian children for peacefully protesting.
I do not intend to question Burnat’s perspective (or bravery) — or the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause — but it is important to watch a documentary such as 5 Broken Cameras with a very critical eye. Burnat obviously shot a lot of footage in these five years, but we only see the precise 90 minutes that the film’s editor (Guy Davidi) wants us to see. Again, I am not questioning the authenticity of the image; but it is worth considering what might have been left on the proverbial cutting room floor.
That said — 5 Broken Cameras is an extremely powerful weapon against the atrocities that Israel commits on a daily basis in Palestine. We can only hope that Burnat’s five cameras will be mightier than all of the weaponry of the Israeli army and that 5 Broken Cameras can promote a much more civil and humane relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. (I am not holding my breath…) At the very least, maybe 5 Broken Cameras will open the eyes of the U.S. Government and make them realize that Israel is not nearly as angelic as we are led to believe. (Again, I am not holding my breath…)