5 Broken Cameras

5 Broken Cameras


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

For the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel, Emad bought a camera to film his family. Soon he found another use for the camera, recording the increasingly chaotic scenes taking place around his house. Emad is a Palestinian farmer and his house is in the village of Bil'in where Israeli settlers, backed by the army, are gradually taking the land.

Emad was already well known in the area for putting himself at risk day after day in order to record the actions of the soldiers, when Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi visited the village to make his documentary Interrupted Streams about what he calls “the water issue”. The locals were being deprived of water, and Davidi stayed in the village for three months while he was filming. During this time he came to know Emad and realised that there was a film to be made from his footage, which would show the brave anti-violent resistance to the army.

The film covers five years of the struggle. In that time five cameras were broken, which gives the film its title and its structure.

Emad himself was shot at many times and at one point very seriously injured, which resulted in a stay in an Israeli hospital. Many of his friends were also injured and his closest friend was shot dead. He regarded his camera as his protection, believing that often the response of the soldiers was less violent when they could see that they were being filmed. At one point the camera literally saves his life when a bullet lodges in it.

Emad's camera keeps rolling as armoured cars enter the village, as soldiers drag people from houses and arrests are made. He goes out at night with friends as they mount peaceful resistance, trying to stop the Israelis delivering cabins for the settlers and then building their own shelters near the fence as an act of defiance. Sometimes Emad's eldest son takes up the camera, as when soldiers come to their house and we see Emad arguing with them. Sometimes Emad turns the camera on his wife, who pleads with him to think of his own safety and not to go out on every demonstration.

Intercut with scenes of violence, we see scenes of Emad's home life, focusing on Gibreel as he grows and celebrates his birthdays. He begins to accompany his father when he crosses through the fence and talks to the soldiers. One day he hands a surprised soldier an olive branch. As he gets older, he asks more questions about what he witnesses.

This is a deeply personal account of life in Palestine, and also one which sends out a strong political message. The message is one of hope, reinforced by the collaboration between the two directors, and the film richly deserves its many awards.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2012
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A Palestinian journalist chronicles his village’s resistance to a separation barrier being erected on their land and in the process captures his young son’s lens on the world.
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Director: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

Year: 2011

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Palestine, Israel, France

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