'5 Broken Cameras'
Will an Oscar-nominated movie lead Israelis to do some soul-searching about the realities of the state's practice?
5 Broken Cameras Photo: YouTube Screenshot
On Sunday night, the sun set and left behind some glorious gold beams on my
hometown, Jerusalem. Throughout the day there were Purim celebrations all over
the country. Kids ran in the streets in their costumes – some creative, homemade
ones; some bought with good money – and the happiness and hope that are part of
the holiday festivities were all around.
Far off, on the other side of
the globe, other joyous celebrations took place: those for the 85th Oscar
ceremony, where Israel is represented by two films. A reason to keep the
happiness and celebrations going, on the surface.
Israeli nominee reflects my reality of life or the joy every infant and elderly
person celebrates on this day.
One of the nominees for Best Foreign Film
is 5 Broken Cameras. Though it seems as if co-productions between Israelis and
Palestinians are a step towards peace and resolution between the two nations,
this film represents life here exactly the other way round.
For those of
us who live here this is not news, but this time not necessarily “good news,” as
the phrase would put it.
The film, categorized as “documentary,” is based
on the footage of Emad Burnat, a resident of Bil’in, about the struggle of the
villagers against the separation fence. Burnat reads the narration that was
written by Guy Davidi as a personal story.
There are two parallel
plot-lines: the demonstrations of the villagers along with their interaction
with Israeli soldiers, and the childhood of Gibreel, Burnat’s son, who was born
Watching the film, I was filled with empathy; hearing Gibreel
asking his father why he can’t take a knife and stab an IDF soldier who killed
his friend. However, this friend wasn’t killed for playing his saxophone, but
rather for attacking the soldiers. Still, this five-year old shouldn’t even know
the word revenge at his young age.
At his age, Gibreel should think about
a nice girl at his kindergarten or maybe about his favorite game.
feelings of empathy I felt were forced on me.
Even as the work recently
appeared on the red carpet, one has to set things straight and give another
perspective to the film’s narrative.
ONE OF the colorful citizens of
Bil’in is Adeeb, who approaches the soldiers asking if they have any
In 2009 he was accused of several offenses, including incitement
of villagers to throw stones at soldiers, disturbing public order and
confronting security forces. Eventually, the court convicted Adeeb, and
following an appeal increased his prison sentence, based partially on a film
which was presented to the court as evidence to those acts.
court records, the film that served as evidence was Burnat’s edited film, but
not its final form. The court described how Burnat’s film showed Adeeb viciously
beating an IDF soldier with a club.
The court emphasized that Adeeb acted
violently on his own initiative and not in response to any conduct of the
In light of the absence of such a scene in the film, one can
assume at least one scene was omitted in editing.
The target audience is
also not aware of a nuances in Israeli society, rather there is the description
of the ultra-orthodox as law-breaking settlers. Allegedly, those settlers are
blamed for burning olive trees and also fall into the ancient stereotype where
Jews had beards and side locks. However, according to the official website of
the municipality of Modi’in Illit, the city was built due to housing shortage in
Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.
To sum up, 5 Broken Cameras is just a part of a
wider phenomenon, which is growing in Israeli culture.
Many films are
created in order to “stimulate criticism” and to “hold up a mirror” reflecting
the Israeli blindness toward the other side and a deep corruption which is the
outcome of a long-lasting occupation.
The viewers are left to wonder how
much this film is one-dimensional, or is there a room for two sides. Is the
reality as flat as to have only the occupier and the occupied, attacker and
victim, and a script written with Israel being displayed as the force of
Having said that, soul-searching should still be conducted. It
is a fact that power is intoxicating and it can be destructive. We should seek
opportunities where we can improve, find the most moral way to live in the
reality imposed on us. We have to stand up to the title “the most moral army in
the world” on a daily basis.
However, slandering the State of Israel at a
glittering ceremony will not do. Real soul-searching can only come from the
facts and not from someone’s “narrative.”
“These are the things you must
do: Speak truth to one another; make true and sound decisions within your
gates.” (Zechariah 8:16).
It’s rather funny and a bit sad how 3,000 years
have passed since the event in which a Persians tried to eliminate the Jewish
people. Today there is still a Persian with the same agenda and a few others who
will do anything in their power to raise the world’s doubt as to the legitimacy
of the existence of the State of Israel.
However, having our own
independent state and a Oscar-nominated narrative which not all Israelis are
comfortable with, reminds us why it is so important to keep protecting this
state and the safety of its citizens.
The writer is a MA candidate for
Communications and Politics at the Hebrew University. She is active on the
SFIStudents for Israel NGO, aiding the anti-defamation and pro-Israel advocacy.