Tuesday, 12 March 2013

5 Broken Cameras

Lowdown: The story of a Palestinian village divided by wall and settlements.
If you are after a depressing hour and a half, look no further than 5 Broken Cameras. This documentary is not depressing for the usual reason of seeing one major tragic event; it is depressing because through its depiction of a decade or so in the life of a Palestinian village it presents us with an ongoing tragedy that is clearly there to last for generations to come. It thus mirrors on the hopelessness of achieving a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; one can argue that by extension it mirrors on humanity’s inherent general inability to solve contentious situations. Or, when a simple village’s problem cannot be solved despite international interventions, what should we expect to happen through global warming?
I am getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to 5 Broken Cameras itself.
A mixed Israeli/Palestinian production, this documentary is made of shots taken by its own narrator - Emad Burnat – as he tells us the story of his five video cameras getting broken one by one. That is the background story; at the foreground we have the story of Burnat’s children growing up in a reality of broken cameras. Even more to the foreground is the story of Bil’in, Burnat’s West Bank village. The village, located near the Green Line (the border between Israel and Jordan up to the 1967 war, which now differentiates the West Bank from Israel), was a generally peaceful one up until its lands started getting taken away by Israel. Some were taken in order to build a separation wall, aimed at protecting Israel from suicide bombers and other terrorist attacks; others were taken in order to build new settlements. The problem is the land happens to be what Bil’in’s generally poor population relies on to make its living.
Against that setting we witness the weekly routine of Friday protests at Bil’in and the Israeli army’s reprisals. That picture is far from nice. Pro Israelis may argue Israel’s side of the equation does not get an equal standing, but it is made quite clear the Palestinians are the more severely wronged side here. How is that made clear? Well, if night time army raids into sleepy houses in order to arrest children are not enough for you then perhaps you would settle with the constant barrages of tear gas and rubber bullets. And if that is not enough for you then perhaps you would want to check the scene where Israeli soldiers are clearly holding a Palestinian protestor while another soldier shoots him in the leg from a very close range with a rifle. Or the scene where we see one of the lead protestors shot dead (we hear the shot, then the camera quickly turns to see the results). No one should wonder why the baby we saw born at the beginning of the film is asking his father why he doesn’t kill Israelis by the end of the film.
Yes, 5 Broken Cameras is a hard one to watch. I think it is also an important one to watch.
Personally moving scene:
Israeli army cars driving into Bil’in get bombarded with barrages of stones. As someone who had the pleasure of having the car he was in stoned in a similar fashion at similar West Bank locations I can tell you there is not much fun to be had inside such a vehicle; it is scary and it doesn’t take much for significant harm to take place, either through an agitated driver’s error, Windows breaking, or through getting out of the car at the wrong time. When you’re in such a car and you hold a gun, you want to come out and use that gun.
I never used my gun in anger, though, for many a good reason. I also do not blame those Arabs that threw the stones in my direction for what they did; frankly, life at the West Bank can be so miserable, I can easily see myself seeking refuge in similar ways. Who am I blaming instead? The politicians that put me there in the first place. You know, the kind that ends up winning Nobel Peace awards a few years later. They are putting the soldiers in tight situations, and as 5 Broken Cameras clearly demonstrates some of those soldiers lose their humanity in the process.
That is the real price the Israeli society is paying for its ongoing occupation.
Overall: An educational experience for all the wrong reasons. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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