Five Broken Cameras

Emad Burnat, Guy David.

The Netherlands / France / Israel / Palestine 2011.

Five broken cameras—and each one has a powerful tale to tell. Embedded in the bullet-ridden remains of digital technology is the story of Emad Burnat, a farmer from the Palestinian village of Bil’in, which famously chose nonviolent resistance when the Israeli army encroached upon its land to make room for Jewish colonists. Emad buys his first camera in 2005 to document the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. Over the course of the film, he becomes the peaceful archivist of an escalating struggle as olive trees are bulldozed, lives are lost, and a wall is built to segregate burgeoning Israeli settlements.

 There is something particularly affecting about film recorded by people who remain naturally in the middle of the action and within the reality in which the action takes place: where it is not a director or photographer who has visited the reality framework to get his film, but rather a number of people who are present anyway and simply choose to turn on the camera. Films such as Burma VJ (2008) and Nargis – When Time Stopped Breathing (2010) clearly show the strength and extent of presence. A similar approach is adopted in Guy Davidi’s laudable project Five Broken Cameras. The Palestinian farm worker Emad Burnat is fascinated by camera technology, and when he invests in his first camera, he is quickly sought after in the community to capture the events that draw and shape the people who live in the city of Bil’in, near Ramallah. Soon Emad also begins to portray life in the frontier zones.

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