Star Rating:

5 Broken Cameras

Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

Release Date: Wednesday 23rd November 2011

Genre(s): Documentary

Running time: 94 minutes

A touching and moving portrait, 5 Broken Cameras follows a Palestinian amateur cameraman who films the weekly demonstrations his village have against the illegal encroachment of Israeli settlers. Passionate filmmaking though it may be, sadly it is also a one-sided documentary: an attempt to speak to those with the opposing view would have enriched this film but instead it feels unfinished.

Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat tells us that when something happens in his village, his instinct is to film it. While he may sometimes shoot festive celebration, more often than not Emad's camera takes him to the fence that cuts his village off from the Israeli settlers on the opposite side. Emad and his fellow villagers are incensed that the illegal settlements encroach on their land, with some of his friends, who make a living from their small farms, losing precious acreage. Shot over a period of five years, each camera Emad uses to document the aggression of the Israeli soldiers against the peaceful demonstrations suffers a similar fate: either broken by soldier's hands, gas grenades or live ammunition.

The village of Bil'in has become the symbol of peaceful resistance, attracting volunteers from all nationalities to support their cause - some are seen here barracking soldiers who come to arrest children as young as ten in the middle of the night. Emad too ventures out after sundown to document the illegal practices of settlers who are encouraged to place trailers beyond borderlines and then build right up behind them; when Bil'in does the same the soldiers turn up to drive them back. All the while Emad - whose narration sounds tired, irritated that his youngest son has grown up in such a world - stays behind the camera as a defensive tactic; the lens giving some emotional distance between the man and the events that happen in front of him.

5 Broken Cameras is raw and shocking in its delivery (people are shot on camera) but it’s a biased affair. Emad and his Israeli film professor and co-director Guy Davidi, don't interview anyone from 'over the wall'. That aside, there's no denying that this is one of the most powerful and engaging documentaries you'll see all year.