I saw an extraordinary film co-directed by a Palestinian (Emad Burnat,) and an Israeli (Guy Davidi) that was an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Film entitled 5 BROKEN CAMERAS. What made this documentary so remarkable was the immediacy of the actual filming – we literally experience –through the looking glass of the lens - the political struggle of a people against an Occupation as if in “real time”, via the eyes and voice of an “amateur” film-maker - a Palestinian farmer, Emad Burnat who gets his first camera in 2005 in order to record his newly born son’s “witness” to the world he has been thrust into. Soon Emad is engaged in recording the struggles and protests of the people of the West Bank village of Bilin in their desperate attempts to preserve their olive groves and lands from the increasing encroachment of newly built Israeli settlements. The melding of the personal and the historical makes the movie even more powerfully disturbing. The visuals of bull-dozers raping the ancestral lands to put up these massive housing complexes, and the creation of barriers erected to separate the farmers from the Jewish settlers, made what for me was once an abstraction a tangible reality.
The film is structured around footage taken by each of the five cameras – like five chapters –each with a lifespan of its own; all the cameras are destroyed in different ways. Political activism and deep ties to the earth are inseparable. The animosity of one group of people against another – one with power and the other dispossessed, over time leads to generational scarring that makes peace an ever more remote possibility.
There are no easy answers to this conflict and the violent confrontations between both sides are often irrevocable as well as intensely tragic. In 5 BROKEN CAMERAS the one positive step leading to some redress is taken by the Israeli Courts which rules in favor of the Palestinian brief against the separation barriers….but that too takes years for the ruling to be enforced, and does not compensate the farmers for their lost properties.
Most importantly we are privy to the enduring spirit and persistence of the demonstrators and their passion and cry for justice in this microcosm of resistance - a small village in the West Bank. YES the film might be considered biased in favor of the Palestinians, but therein lies its strength. We get the view from the other side. In order to “see” what some consider one’s “enemies”, we must be able to feel and behold the humanity in others. The divide then lessens and perhaps a semblance of justice and unity is possible.