An extraordinary documentary which employs the process of filmmaking as an act of peaceful political protest.
Earlier in 2012, the documentary You’ve Been Trumped told the story of a tycoon (Donald Trump) encroaching on the rights, and land, of a small village in Scotland. While Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi's 5 Broken Cameras may tell, in a very broad sense, a similar story, this is a film of far superior quality and resonance.
In 2002, the Israeli government sanctioned the construction of a 'separation barrier' that would partition most of the West Bank from areas inside Israel. In February 2005, the villagers of a small town in Palestine called Bil’in started a movement to non-violent protest. They marched against the Israeli army and the construction of the wall, and at times, things got ugly and very violent.
5 Broken Cameras is a film compiled mostly (around 80 per cent) of footage filmed by one of those villagers (Burnat), an affable and practically-minded farmer, amateur video journalist and family man. Spurred by the horrific events occurring within his town, he shot over 700 hours of footage before teaming up with Israeli activist/filmmaker Guy Davadi who assisted him in turning it into a film. The title 5 Broken Cameras comes from the collection of cameras that Eman used to shoot the film before each of them became irreparably damaged, usually at the hands/weapons of the encroaching Israeli military.
The film has a deeply personal point of view and features candid and lively images of village life, arrests and even deaths. The film is narrated in a poetic way that explains the action, but is also analytical (Davadi wrote the voice-over for Burnat that ties the film together).
As a filmmaker, Burnat possesses an keen eye for spectacle and always seems to have his camera rolling in the right place and at the right time. One could see an image of a young boy offering an olive branch to a soldier as an innocent symbol of peace, but also, perhaps more cynically, as a calculated manipulation. 5 Broken Cameras is at its best when Davidi lets Burnat’s images speak for themselves without the crutch of explanatory, emotive voiceover that too often hits the nail on the head and uses phrases that sometimes teeter on the brink of cliché.
But by its very existence, 5 Broken Cameras operates as a rousing morale boost for the marginalised protester, that fiery conceptual morass that Time magazine named its 'Person of the Year' in 2011. It’s also a deeply moving portrait of a family, a community and the power and resonance of incorruptible ideals.
The harsh beauty – military tanks being hammered by rocks, or streams of tear gas raining down on the arid landscape – and horror of destruction are channeled into a film which is ultimately about the healing properties of not merely action, but the creation of art.
Lots of buzz from the festival circuit.
An immaculately crafted and political rousing work.
A fascinating reminder of why the humble video camera can be used as a weapon against political oppression.