The events captured in 5 Broken Cameras are not pleasant
A documentary by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles. Unrated. Opens Friday, November 23, at the Vancity Theatre
The kaput cameras here belong to Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who wanted to record the arrival of his fourth son. Subsequently, he began recording the details of little Gibreel’s life in the occupied territories. The cameras don’t break just because they are cheap.
Over six years, the villagers of Bil’in—mostly not very religious boys and men who range from peaceniks to hotheads—react to steady incursions from Israeli settlers and soldiers, usually nonviolently, sometimes with rocks, and always with bewilderment.
There is a pattern: Israelis declare a disputed parcel of land to be theirs. The army moves in and property is razed and quickly covered with ugly tower blocks. “Security perimeters” are built to protect the mostly Orthodox Jews (here seen beating protesters). Finally, outbuildings creep well past the borders of the new zone, so the perimeter changes again. Repeat as needed, and be sure to bulldoze or burn the olive trees.
The soft-spoken Burnat, who also narrates, has a Brazilian wife, western friends, and an Israeli Jewish codirector-writer; he doesn’t pretend to tell an objectively complete story. Still, furious letter writers—entranced by bloodshed in Gaza—will be composing righteous screeds about the Israeli devil or the terrorist inside every Palestinian. How very convenient for all those builders and development companies.
The events captured in 5 Broken Cameras are not pleasant, and I eventually focused on the subtext: this is all about money, not God or even history. From the Spanish conquest to Manifest Destiny, land grabs have always had deeply religious motivation. But take off the clerical garb and you’re left with Donald Trump. Corporations don’t own whole armies yet, but you can bet your water rights they’re working on it.
Watch the trailer for 5 Broken Cameras.