'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 credit: YouTube Screenshot)
5 Broken Cameras
(photo credit: 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.
Unfortunately, neither 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 in 2005.
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.
Those 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 heart.
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.
According to 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 soldiers.
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 darkness.
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.