5 Broken Cameras, a Brutal Film about Nonviolent Protest

Still hoping for a Palestinian Spring

What makes 5 Broken Cameras stand out is its insistence on nuance and its refusal to get caught up in the self-defeating war of words over who is the bigger victim. The movie shows scant regard for politicians, including Hamas and the Palestine Authority, whose officials are shown sweeping though Bil'in for a quick photo op. "We're not trying to show that the Palestinians are a clean society full of peace and goodwill," Davidi says. "The opposite—it's a society disturbed by violence, and we show how this anger builds, especially when we follow Jibreel through the years." On the other hand, we also see Burnat's life saved in an Israeli hospital after he crashes his truck, apparently accidentally, into a security barrier. And when a small boy offers an olive branch to a soldier, we see the soldier hesitate, unsure of what to do, and then accept the twig. "The villagers, many of whom speak Hebrew and worked in Israel, know that the soldiers are not their target," says Davidi, who did not serve in the Israel Defense Forces beyond basic training (he would only say that it's a "long story" and that he did his utmost to not serve). "They know some of them are victims of the system, and they try to put pressure on them to resist."

5 Broken Cameras received generous funding within Israel, and though it has not yet screened in Bil'in (the Arabic subtitles are not ready), it will screen at the Jerusalem Film Festival this July. Israelis who work in the arts are accustomed to doing so alongside Palestinians, and audiences there, Davidi says, are far more open-minded than in Jewish communities abroad. Still, given the rightward drift of Israeli politics and the intransigence of the Hamas leadership, the prospects for peace remain unclear. Both filmmakers acknowledge the bleak situation in the West Bank and especially in Gaza. But says Davidi: "People think there's more security now because of the wall, but it's really because there is a growing understanding among Palestinians that violence has completely failed. A window of opportunity is inevitable."

Last week, that window was pried open a few more inches when Arab prisoners staged a nonviolent hunger strike in Israeli jails and won significant concessions. Davidi and Burnat are convinced that change will come from the bottom up, not through political channels. In their different ways, too, both emphasize the spiritual energy behind the movement.

Co-director Emad Burnat's camera stopped a bullet.
Kino Lorber
Co-director Emad Burnat's camera stopped a bullet.

"Suffering is there to stay for all our lives," says Davidi, a committed Buddhist. "When we look at Gandhi, we speak of the practice and ethics of nonviolence. But it was the spiritual element that gave the movement energy in India and other countries. People need this hope in order to survive when the situation seems hopeless." Instead of using religion to divide, Davidi and Burnat hope that the nonviolence movement can harness religious belief to the cause of peace and coexistence. "I don't know what's going to be in the future," Burnat says. "Only God knows."

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