Startlingly intimate and direct, this first-person doc by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi requires multiple viewings for anyone eager to work out how it could have been shot with such precision and visual ingenuity under such plainly chaotic conditions. The film is an account of five years in the life of Burnat, a Palestinian farmer whose hometown of Bil’in is overtaken by Israeli settlements (a euphemism for high-rise sprawl) just as his youngest son, Gibreel, is born and his desire to make meaningful cinematic documents takes root. A series of inexpensive cameras gets sacrificed as he and Davidi, an Israeli, brave increasing violence and official indifference to capture the widespread involvement of Burnat’s friends and neighbors in the village’s resistance movement. It’s impossible not to care about these people, which triggers alarms over how thoroughly 5 Broken Cameras elicits sympathy for Palestinians at the expense of an Israeli perspective. (The settlers come off as cartoonishly thuggish, with their itchy fists and default cries of “I’ll sue you!”) But Burnat and Davidi aim less for journalistic balance than a deeply personal explication of resistance—mortifying, invigorating, possibly futile, and probably the only dignified response under the circumstances. “It takes strength to turn something negative into something possible,” Burnat says of Bil’in’s struggle, and he could just as easily be talking about his and Davidi’s film.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 30, 2012