5 Broken Cameras has been picking up awards on the festival circuit this year winning amongst others the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize at International Documentary Festival Amsterdam and the World Cinema Directing Award at the World Documentary Competition at Sundance. Thankfully the IFI Stranger Than Fiction 2012 documentary festival meant that Dublin audiences now had a chance to catch this important documentary.
In 2005 Emad Burnat was given a video camera to record the birth of his fourth son. From this original intention Emad takes his camera out into his village of Bil’in in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in order to film the events occurring in the village, which is under siege by the Israeli army. 5 Broken Cameras, as the title suggests, refers to the recording equipment he gets through over the 5 years of recording the struggle of the non-violent resistance of the people of the village in the face of a violent occupying army..
In effect he becomes the village’s videographer as he chronicles the day-to-day events. Burnat remarks early on how each of his sons mark a different time in the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations. His fourth child Gibreel is born at a time when the Israeli government begins constructing a security barrier separating Bil’in from nearby settlements. The people of Bil’in come out in protest as the settlements begin to encroach further and further onto their land.
Their peaceful protests are met with an aggressive Israeli army response who resort to tear gas, rubber bullets and physical violence against the villagers. As these clashes occur again and again the nonchalant manner of soldiers hurling canisters of tear gas and firing rounds into non-violent groups of women and children makes for harrowing viewing. The clashes are caught by Emad and the unflinching footage is shot from the eye of the storm – the camera never turns away as it is a part of events rather than being a mere witness to them – events that lead to injury and death.
Over the course of the film we track the harsh reality of Gibreel growing from a newborn to a 5 year-old witness of events that create feelings of hatred towards the occupying army. Meanwhile Emad’s wife pleas with him to stop recording as it endangers the family. This juxtaposition of the personal and political afford the film a heightened sense of emotion and leave the viewer in no doubt of the reality that the people of Palestine face everyday.
A deeply personal perspective on events, 5 Broken Cameras is often traumatic, yet essential viewing.
Today at Stranger Than Fiction 2012:
Keep an eye on filmireland.net for coverage of the festival as it happens.