Emad Burnat is a Palestinian farmer who bought a video camera to record the first birthday of his latest son, Gibreel. Meanwhile, a metallic fence was being built extremely close to Bil’in which attempted to expropriate agricultural lands of the villagers. The people of the village started weekly demonstrations against this illegal fence and Emad’s camera turned into a tool for the peaceful resistance of Palestinians against colonialism. This great documentary shows the human face of non-violent struggle and the difficulties of life under occupation.
Emad’s opinion on the documentary is specially interesting as he realises that what makes their work to stand out among the massive amount of documentaries on the Palestine-Israel conflict is that it is not produced by outsiders. Instead it is a villager who started to document the resistance from within. Hence, this film is not only about the conflict or the occupation itself, but about life under the occupation. And there it lies its powerful humanity.
While “5 Broken Cameras” does not try to offer a balanced view from both sides, this is not a story of Palestinians against Israelis. This documentary goes far beyond from any preconcieved ideas and during the movie it becomes clear that there is a strong movement of collaboration between both sides of the wall to end occupation. Of course it speak against land siezure but it does so in a very subtle manner by showing the peaceful strategies of the villagers against the army and the settlers.
In addition, it does document a number of injustices exercised by the Israeli army like the use of tear gas grenades or live ammunition against unarmed persons, the arrest of children to provoke fear among villagers, the astonishing different treatment that Jewish settlers and Palestinian villagers receive, and even the shooting of blindfolded prisoners or the killing of unarmed protesters.
The fact that children are the eyepiece of the documentary is a very important factor to understand the huge impact “5 broken Cameras” had on international film industry. The production period took 5 years and during this time Gibreel grew up and learnt about the social and political context in which he was living. It is impossible to hide this situation from children and the shells of tear gas grenades turn into toys for kids to play with. Eventually they ask about death. They asked why people don’t kill the soldiers if the soldiers killed people? As Emad clarifies “clinging to non violent ideals is very difficult when death is all around you.”
Guy Davidi followed up the post-production of the movie with some workshops with Israeli youths in an attempt to breach the Israeli education programmes and army efforts to maintain their strong grip on public opinion. In one of these sessions a young Israeli asked: “¿what am I supposed to do after watching this film, or in general to change this reality?” The answer is not easy but, from my very limited understanding, abstention to the mandatory military service might be one among the possible solutions. Another might be the recognition of abuses during the service trying to break the silence imposed on the majority of the society for the community to humanise the other and be aware of the atrocities committed on the other side of the wall.
Summarising, this is an incredibly necessary documentary to understand the Palestine-Israel conflict. But don’t expect neither blindly partisan view, nor an overarching explanation. It is a very human report on strategies to prevent the construction of a fence. Overall evaluation: outstanding.