Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Blog

By Jade Zoghbi

 “I’ll just keep filming. It helps me confront life and survive…I have to believe that these images will have some meaning.” This is the life of Emad Burnat, Palestinian farmer, freelance cameraman, photographer, and story-line producer of the debut documentary and Academy-nominated Best Documentary 5 Broken Cameras. He and Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker and cinema teacher, joined forces to publish and educate the public on transformations in the West Bank region by means of cinema.

The beautifully poetic and heart-wrenching storyline begins with the birth of Burnat’s son, and the first of five cameras which marks a phase coinciding with the beginning tumults and violence in the Palestinian city of Bil’in. What began as a documentation of the phases of his son’s life morphed into a seven year narration of the stages and developments of the Israeli-Palestine conflict; it was the birth of a lens and weapon of resistance to a personal life story of collective memory, transition, occupation and the multi-layered experience within closed military zones and the village of Bil’in.  

The two directors met in Bil’in in 2005 where the two became friends, and chose to make a production by contributing their respective strengths.  

Throughout the movie, the illusion of protection for Burnat, positioned behind the lens, vanishes as soldiers first threaten him with violence and then attack him. The two directors realize that it is the truth which will free and empower the young and old, and perhaps prevent the continuing alienation between the two populations from a young age forward through the development of meaningful contact.

5 Broken Cameras stands out as a production and voice of a Palestinian man, and other Palestinian artists ought to have the space to share their narratives and shape the collective memory of their villages and the community at large. Yet cinema infrastructure remains weak, and funding for Palestinian cinema deserves more attention from international partners.

Certainly, cinema is visual politics in action and may reach young audiences more effectively, particularly those deprived of education and an illiterate population. Children, like Burnat’s son Gebreel, grow up with the daily fear of attack and under pressures of heroism. We can dream with Burnat for the day when the youth’s first perceived concepts will not be “walls” and “soldiers,” but when these lives experience the simple joys of youth that each child is entitled to. Until then, we must ensure that the young and old have access to these productions to educate the next generation on non-violent means of sharing a space of movement. 

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