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5 Broken Cameras

5 Broken Cameras

Released 19 October 2012
Director(s) Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi
Writer(s) Guy Davidi

Christine Camdessus, Serge Gordey, Ernad Burnat, Guy Davidi

Palestinian Territory, Israel, France, Netherlands
Running Time 94 minutes
Genre Documentary
Rating TBC

Life through a lens.

When Emad Burnat first picked up a video camera it was to document the new arrival of his fourth son. As time went on, he became known as the local cameraman and was called upon to film the community events of his small farming village on the West Bank. When the Israeli authorities erected a fence that encroached on land owned by the people of his town for generations, he began to film the weekly demonstrations undertaken by his friends and family; demonstrations that begin peacefully but which escalate into chaos. During this time, Emad goes through five cameras as they are smashed or shot in the course of his filming.

The resulting footage was cut together by Burnat with the help of Israeli film professor Guy Davidi and the result is compelling and inspiring but frequently harrowing. There is incredible tenacity and passion at work in Emad’s close knit rural community. Though the struggle goes on for years against seemingly insurmountable odds, they still value peaceful protest. This makes it all the more difficult to watch the abuse meted out by the Israeli army and the cycle of hate trickling down to the younger generations growing up in the shadow of such upheaval.

Aside from documenting the distressing events that surrounded him, Emad also stumbles into one of the great moral issues of documentary film. Emad watches his family and friends being arrested and injured from behind his camera. He is a part of the protests but is also removed from them, an observer. This is something that Emad struggles with, questioning his motivation and the values of his filming. At times, it is difficult to understand why Emad did not put down his camera to intervene - at one point he films his elderly parents attempting to stop an army jeep in which his brother is being taken into custody.

5 Broken Cameras is a valuable document of extreme injustice and  cruelty and the wonderful spirit of those who tirelessly fight against such injustice. Furthermore, in questioning the complicated ethics of documenting such events, it gives a thought-provoking insight into the act of documentary filmmaking and its value in situations of political turmoil.

- Linda O’Brien