‘5 Broken Cameras’ angers both sides
Bilin, West Bank —
An Oscar-nominated documentary about this West Bank hamlet has infuriated people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
In Israel, some are asking why the government helped fund a film so scathing in its criticism of its own policies, while Palestinians are shocked that the film is winning accolades for being “Israeli.”
“5 Broken Cameras” is the story of a years-long struggle by residents of Bilin to wrest their village lands back from Israel’s military. The title refers to the number of cameras that the main protagonist, Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat, had broken by Israeli forces as he sought to film weekly demonstrations against the military. Residents were protesting the seizure of about half the village lands to construct a separation barrier running through parts of the West Bank.
The $400,000 documentary was made with contributions from Israeli and French government film funds. It is the latest in a series of well-received movies critical of Israeli government policies toward the Palestinians, yet also funded with state money.
Another Israeli-funded documentary, “The Gatekeepers,” has also been nominated for an Oscar. That film interviews the former heads of Israel’s internal security service about how they suppressed Palestinians over the decades in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The projects expose a contradiction in Israeli society. While the military rules over millions of Palestinians, the government funds a vibrant arts scene that is often scathing in its criticism of official policy. Danny Danon, a member of the ruling Likud Party, said funding critical movies underscores the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy, even if it provides ammunition for critics.
The documentary’s protagonists are dismayed that the film is affiliated with Israel. Even though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not classify nominees in the documentary feature category by country, Israeli officials have pitched “5 Broken Cameras” as their own.
Palestinians said they did not want Israelis to take credit for a film that documents how they have suffered at the hands of the Israeli military.
Guy Davidi, the film’s Israeli partner, rejected the criticism. He said the movie should be seen for what it is: a human portrayal of the village residents.
“For me, documentaries have no identities,” he said. “Here are the facts: The film is a Palestinian-Israeli-French co-production with a Palestinian and Israeli director,” he added.
“The film tells the story of Emad and the nonviolent movement in Bilin, and that’s what’s important,” Davidi said.
The struggle is viewed through the eyes of Emad Burnat’s wide-eyed son Gibreel, whose first birthday coincides with the start of protests and whose childhood is shaped by demonstrations, soldiers and families fraying under pressure.