Palestine rarely gets mentioned in U.S. politics. These days, politicians have to pledge their undying allegiance to Israel – no matter what Israel does or does not do – for whatever reason. Just take one look at the 2012 Republican primaries where Newt Gingrich actually came out saying Palestinians are an “invented” people.
5 Broken Cameras shows that he couldn’t be further from the truth.
The documentary, the majority of which is filmed on five different video cameras after each is broken (one even takes a bullet), reveals the harrowing day-to-day struggles of Palestinian men, women, and children living in Bil’in – a village located in the West Bank.
Emad Burnat, the filmmaker, initially bought a camera in order to film the arrival of his fourth son, Gibreel. From there, he ends up filming important events in the community. From multiple occasions of tear gas being thrown at non-violent protesters to IDF militants storming people’s houses and arresting children in the middle of the night, it’s all captured on his cameras.
If you’re looking for broader context, this isn’t the film for you – but it’s an extremely important film, all the same. Burnat never sets out to do more than just record what’s happening in his own village, within his own community. Yet, it’s really eye-opening.
5 Broken Cameras also shows us the strong sense of friendship, hope, and resilience among the villagers of Bil’in who somehow manage to find the inner strength to keep on going. They endure arrests and indefinite imprisonments without being formally charged or receiving proper due process of law. People are frequently injured, some fatally.
Burnat himself is both imprisoned and seriously wounded, and his camera is never far away when it’s all happening.
The main conflict is the encroaching illegal settlements on Palestinian land, which despite being illegal even by Israeli standards, continue to be built at a rapid rate. The Palestinians use various non-violent methods in order to stop the settlements, and while they’re thwarted by both the Israeli army and Jewish settlers at every turn, they never give up.
The visual that struck me the most when watching is when Burnat’s son Gibreel, a doe-eyed toddler, literally hands one of the Israeli soldiers standing guard an olive branch.
5 Broken Cameras is one of the films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. You can stream it on Netflix or Amazon, and if you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend that you watch it.
- Starring: Emad Burnat
- Directed by: Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
- Running Time: 94 minutes
- Genre: Documentary