In a moment that has been building for nearly a year, today the film 5 Broken Cameras was nominated for the 2013 Best Documentary Feature Oscar award. The film tells the story of Bil’in’s resistance to the Separation Wall and introduces viewers to the incredibly inspiring Palestinians who led the struggle. Writing on Mondoweiss, Abdeen Jabara likened the film to The Battle of Algiers when it came out in May:
I spent this morning calling friends to get their friends and their friends’ friends to go down and see the film, Five Broken Cameras. I saw it last night, and I was blown away.
Anybody’s who interested in peace, justice in Palestine/Israel, has to see this movie. It’s an incredible documentary about the steadfastness of the villagers in Bil’in and of the steadfastness of this one fellow, Emad Burnat, who wanted to report what was happening to his village and the taking of the land. And it’s a testament to the the Israelis who are supporting the people of Bil’in, that they got the wherewithal to make a world-class showing, of the standard of the Battle of Algiers, although this is a documentary, and Battle of Algiers was a staged recreation.
The film interweaves this fellow Burnat’s life and his family’s life and the story of his youngest child Gibreel over the five years of these demonstrations, what happens with this child– the filming, the raids on the village, the Israelis’ arrests of young boys. And all of this is interwoven into a story that is immensely powerful.
Phil saw the movie around the same time and wrote:
I found the movie devastating. There are two utterly noble characters in the film: Bassem Abu Rahmah and Adeeb Abu Rahmah. Each of these men is as glorious as Zorba the Greek, giant spirits who lift their little town in opposition to the occupation, and they fail. Bassem—Phil, the Elephant—of course dies; readers of this site followed his tragic murder when it took place three years ago. Now to see him in all his beautiful wideshouldered bighipped grinning glory, surrounded by the children he felt closest to, it is uplifting and harrowing. Some day there will be statues of this great man.
As for Adeeb, he is a brave ham. He always likes to make a scene, director Emad Burnat says. Oh but what scenes. He caresses an olive tree in the film. There is this great confrontation with the soldiers. And when he is dolling himself up and Burnat asks if there is a wedding, Adeeb says, There is the weekly demonstration; it is better than any wedding!
And by the end of the movie, his spirit seems half-broken.
The other achievement of the movie is the depiction of the Israelis. They are all but evil. We see them shooting Bassem’s brother Daba point blank execution style in the leg, so that he will stop demonstrating. We see them crushing creative nonviolent resistance again and again. When the settlers come flying into their new high rises built on Bil’in’s land, one settler says on a cellphone, Get the furniture in, put up the mezzuzzah. It is a crass landgrab. When the villagers shower a Jeep that is carrying Adeeb away with bricks and stones, we cheer them on.
The film received the public backing of influential documentary filmmaker Michael Moore and I’m sure his ongoing promotion of the film helped. You can watch it on Hulu Plus online and it’s still in theaters.
Also nominated was The Gatekeepers, a film critical of Israel that features interviews with six former heads of the Shin Bet who repudiate their past carrying out Israeli occupation policy. As Phil wrote on the film, “The film’s prominence, following the earlier success of The Law in These Parts and 5 Broken Cameras, signals a new discourse in the United States: Our prestige media are going to start talking about the vicious cruelty of the occupation.”
Will that new discourse translate into Oscar gold? We’ll have to wait until February 24th to see.