I have a lot of love for Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi for 5 Broken Cameras, if only for what Burnat has done and what he represents. Whether or not I agree with the political activism and the statements made in the film is irrelevant. Burnat films his life and what is happening to his community. Davidi helped it become cinematic brilliance.
From someone who vlogs my personal life for friends and family, but also to document, I felt a personal connection to this film that probably gave it one more star than it may deserve. Burnat got his first video camera in 2005 for the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. He is born into Bil’in, a Palestinian town outside of Jerusalem in the West Bank. We’ve all heard of the West Bank, but these people live there.
The Israeli government has moved the wall and taken good portions of their land. These people do not have salaries–they live off of the land, and the government has given permission for settlers to build on the Olive grove. Outraged that the Israeli government thinks they can take their livelihood, Burnat and the other men in the town organize weekly protests to be held every Friday. They are supposedly “peaceful” protests, but there is always tear gas and gunshots. Sometimes people are arrested, and occasionally people die, but the wall is stubbornly unmoved, year after year.
Burnat goes through five cameras over the course of five years, and in the end he is on his sixth. One camera saved his life, another is repaired multiple times from being shot. There is one poignant scene when Burnat’s wife Soraya is pleading with him to stop filming everything because it will get him killed. Burnat is recognized by the Israeli government as a journalist, so he gets many unique shots even from amongst the soldiers as they deal with the protests. Sometimes they don’t acknowledge the camera and other times it angers them.
There are certain shots that certainly have a great deal of foresight that your average home movie doesn’t have. Panoramas of Israel, shots of burning olive trees, and a fascinating discussion between mother and son while washing dishes. Even more interesting among this is watching Gibreel grow up in Bil’in and discover the world around him. As a toddler, the soldiers are just other people, but in only a few years he will be confused by his father’s anger and then slowly come to understand. By the time he is five and has lost people he loves dearly, the anger begins to become his own.
The story telling is well done, and although there are a lot of scenes of protest, Burnat and Davidi are capable of showing them from new angles and in new light. In each one, something significant or representative of their struggle happens. Although certain aspects of the story frustrated me, I enjoyed their method of story telling immensely and appreciate how raw and real everything is. Other directors try to capture this feeling in a lot their projects, but 5 Broken Cameras trumps most of them.
Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of documentaries I would recommend this one for you. If you aren’t into political activism, the story telling and raw nature of the film are enough to draw you in and hold you there.