Movie Review ~ 5 Broken Cameras

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A documentary on a Palestinian farmer’s chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army.

Stars: Emad Burnat, Soraya Burnat, Mohammed Burnat, Gibreel Burnat

Director: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

Rated: NR

Running Length: 94 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  This Oscar nominated documentary is a powerful look at the conflict between Palestine and Israel through the eyes of a filmmaker/olive farmer in the small town of Bil’in.  Pieced together from almost five years of material as captured by the titular broken cameras, the audience is given a front row seat as Emad Burnat, his family, and fellow villagers battle with Israeli settlers infringing on their land.

Going in I was initially a bit weary for another documentary about the perils of war.  I know that as a white man living in Middle America I have little to complain about, freedom being the least of my worries.  However as shown by Burnat in striking and graphic imagery, life is quite different for the people of Bil’in who are simply trying to protect their land and livelihood.  Through non-violent protest, the villagers use various methods to keep the Israeli settlers and army away but with every step forward they take, the opposition pushes them back further with violence and illegal occupation.

Each camera tells its own story as it documents important stages of the conflict.  People we meet early on change as the years pass as they grow hardened to the turmoil surrounding them.  It’s a near daily battle and Burnat captures it all without flinching even as Burnat himself is arrested, shot at, gassed, and further injured over the years.  Though lives are lost and hardships are never-ending, he never loses sight of what he’s documenting for the good of his village and his family.

We also watch Burnat’s young son as he grows up under the shadow of violence.  When the film begins the son is barely a year old, then he’s saying his first words, then he’s three, and finally he’s five.  There are nice parallels drawn between the boy as he matures and the continuing crisis facing his future.  Burnat’s wife, too, is shown as her resolve is tested with each new roadblock and threat of danger.

The footage shot by Burnat and co-director Davidi is fairly incredible, an all-access pass to terrible acts and graphic depictions of violence that we aren’t used to seeing in film.  It’s a hard-hitting, eye-opening film that more than earns it’s nomination for Best Documentary.

This week, as Burnat traveled to California to attend The Academy Awards, he was detained and questioned in the airport along with his family.  After they were cleared through customs, Burnat told reporters that this type of scrutiny was nothing new to him considering where he lives and works.  The film he’s made is dangerous, impactful, and important…a staggering chronicle of a battle that continues even today.

Note: Spirit Awards

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No question that Sunday, February 24 is Hollywood’s big night with The Academy Awards being presented but in the last few years I’ve enjoyed tuning in to the Spirit Awards.  A much less showy affair (it’s held in a tent and guests/presenters always poke fun at how freezing it is), it fits well with the indie film vibe.  While Oscar night is a time for Tinsel Town to crown new royalty, the ISA’s feel very much in line with the Screen Actors Guild Awards in that they recognize films/actors that the bottom line obsessed Hollywood seems to have ignored.  Chances are you haven’t heard of many of the films nominated but I’ve always come away from the ceremony with a few films to add to my “To See” list.

Check out the nominees here and tune in tonight to watch!