5 Broken Cameras: a view of Palestine 2005-2009

Posted on February 27, 2013 by


5 Broken Cameras


The documentary film, 5 Broken Cameras, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. After seeing it, it is no surprise as to why this movie was so highly regarded by film critics. The documentary tells the story of Emad Burnat, a Palestinian man that bought a camera to document the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. At the same time, the Israeli government was encroaching on the land of Palestinian people in the small village of Bil’il. The Israeli’s were bulldozing their land, destroying their livelihoods, building settlements for Israeli people to live in, and had built a wall to keep the people of Bil’il out. Over the course of four years, the men of Bil’il and the surrounding area held demonstrations every Friday to speak out against the settlements and to fight for their land. More importantly, however, the people chose to fight a war of non-violence against an army that used much violence against them. Even through the pain, suffering, and even death of many of their citizens, the men continued to fight on until the wall was eventually taken down and some of the land was restored to the rightful owners. Early on, Emad decided that his primary role in the fight would be to capture the efforts of the Palestinians on camera. Over the 4+ years, he went through five cameras, all broken in the heat of battle at various times.

There were not as many religious dimensions in this film as I was expecting there to be. Maybe it is because I am ignorant and expected there to be large displays of the Muslim culture, but it took me a while into the film to realize that the ‘religious’ was not as blatant as I was expecting it to be. There were some things that immediately stood out. All of the women wore hijabs and spent their time on camera cooking, cleaning, caring for the children and remaining close to home. At the same time, the men were the hard workers, protestors and ‘soldiers’. There were also implications of their holistic lifestyle through the small, peaceful village and the villager’s farming and living off the land.

Another display of ‘religious’ was the people of Bil’il’s persistence and devotion to their fight against the Israeli government. Not only were they committed to doing what they believed to be right, but they also did so with non-violent tactics. As the movie continued on, it was easy to tell that they were doing this out of moral goodness. In a conversation Emad had with Gibreel, he told his son that the demonstrators did not want to hurt the soldiers, but simply wanted to get their land back. The men in the story also made mention to God, God’s will, and the martyrdom of the fallen men sporadically throughout the story even more solidifying the moral dedication to things they believe in.

The final and most sincere display of ‘religious’ that I noticed was the sense of community that the people of Bil’il created. As is true in many religions, communities of faith are an essential part of worship. Although these men were not bonded together for the purpose of worship, the same attributes can be seen in the community they built over the effort to subvert the Isreali government. Even as the wall and settlements were expanding to other cities, the chanting of the Palestinian people were about bonding as a whole and saving their ‘brothers’ land as well as their own. It was the community bond that allowed these men the perseverance to keep fighting.

Although the main themes in the movie were not based on religion, it is easy to see that there are signs of religion or religious themes throughout the movie. 5 Broken Cameras is a beautiful depiction of the lives of the men and women in Bil’il Palestine from 2005-2009 and the trials they went through. The film can be watched online at Hulu+.

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