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‘5 Broken Cameras’ is reminiscent of ‘The Battle of Algiers’ (but the ‘NYT’ can’t tell you that)

on 14 Comments

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.

I went to see the 6:30 show and Carl Schieren [of JVP] was there and he told me that one of the directors of the film would be at the following showing of the film, so we went and had dinner and came back. And Guy Davidi the Israeli director stood for a while and answered some questions. He said they wanted to show this in America even more than in Israel, because the US is so critical for what happens there. He said that when he came to make this film, he was dubious, because other films had been made about Budrus and Bil’in and other villages trying to stop confiscation of their lands. He thought, maybe I could find an angle that would be more interesting– and the angle was the story of co-director Burnat, this man who was doing the filming and having his cameras destroyed by the Israeli military.

I saw that the other director, Emad Burnat, will be coming to the Film Forum to answer questions on Sunday and Tuesday and I urge you to go.

When I was calling around today, one friend asked Does the film humanize Arabs? Absolutely. Absolutely. It shows a village’s commitment to a peaceful struggle and their family life. It shows their love for their children and their elderly and their grief at the dying of people in the demonstrations. All the things that make a human being human.

Also, it dispels all the images that people use to promote Islamophobia. The wife of the main protagonist, she covers her hair– and you see some Muslim funerals with the people carrying people martyred in demonstrations, and recitations of the Koran in the background– but these things look perfectly normal. These look like what they are: the perfectly normal everyday life of a people.

Another friend asked, Why did I go to the film in the first place? Well yesterday morning I saw the New York Times review of Five Broken Cameras in the arts section. And the essence of the review by A.O. Scott was, This is an intractable problem, there are no rights or wrongs here, it’s a tragedy. My first inclination was not to go see the movie on the basis of that review.

Then I said, I’m going to go see it because the Times is so often wrong. Well I went to see it for myself, and I was just dumbstruck between the gap between what that review was and what that movie was about. When you see the film, you can see why they didn’t give it a good review, they don’t want to promote something as being sympathetic to the Palestinians. 

Abdeen Jabara
About Abdeen Jabara

Abdeen Jabara is a civil rights attorney in New York. He helped found the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

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14 Responses

  1. seafoid
    seafoid on May 31, 2012, 12:28 pm

    “the Israel/Palestine conflict is tragic and intractable”

    Until Israel breaks under the pressure
    and then solutions become urgent
    Jewish hubris is a procrastination machine

  2. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870 on May 31, 2012, 12:39 pm

    RE: “‘5 Broken Cameras’ is reminiscent of ‘The Battle of Algiers’ (but the ‘NYT’ can’t tell you that)” ~ Abdeen Jabara

    NETFLIX: 5 Broken Cameras (2011) NR
    In this moving documentary, a Palestinian farmer chronicles his village’s nonviolent resistance to the presence of encroaching Israeli settlers and military. As camera after camera gets shot or otherwise destroyed, the farmer continues filming.
    Netflix availability: DVD availability date unknown

    P.S. MUSIC: Mark Eliyahu playing the Kamancha (kamancheh) with the Ashkelon Andalusian Orchestra: “Brothers Getting Together” (VIDEO, 06:34) –
    H/T: Paul Woodward @ War in Context

  3. karendevito
    karendevito on May 31, 2012, 4:38 pm

    Americans need to see this film.One man’s attempt to overcome the crushing depression that an obdurate military occupation brings with it–he mediates his experience through the lens. In it, he captures the spirit of resistance in Bil’in,as well as the everyday. His wife is stoic about nonviolent resistance up to a point–you can see the fear seeping in as she begs him to stop filming. This, he cannot do–and we are the better for it. We see ordinary people striving to live their lives, free of fear, in the presence of justice with the capability for human flourishing. And it is clear, as we follow this chronicle, what is preventing these things we take for granted in our own lives. Seeing Bassen Abu Rahma ( “Pheel”)in motion , the larger-than life great soul who kept his and everyone else’s spirits up, who joyously flew kites with the children of the village is alone worth the price of admission.
    Part of that price too,is the sadness one feels after viewing. Here in Canada, I heard people say “What can we DO?” There are many things– but it is in America that people have more political agency to influence this issue. Washington, after all, is Israel’s biggest enabler. Canada is just a little spud in the scheme of things.

    • seafoid
      seafoid on May 31, 2012, 5:21 pm

      If all the little spuds acted in concert there would be a very different Israel.

      • Daniel Rich
        Daniel Rich on May 31, 2012, 6:33 pm

        @ seafoid,

        The way I see it that all ‘m lil’ tadpoles are joining forces now and the wave they’ll make will wash all that’s bad back into the ocean [Kohmeini’s speech translated into Chinese, then back into Japanese and finally into English]

  4. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich on May 31, 2012, 5:30 pm

    The wonderful west and its impeccable democratic track record [sigh] @

  5. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich on May 31, 2012, 6:42 pm

    side note: I have to admit that that title ‘5 broken cameras’ is more powerful and has way more impact emotionally than I thought when I read it the first time. Anyone dis/agrees?

  6. RoHa
    RoHa on May 31, 2012, 8:57 pm

    This is an intractable problem, there are no rights or wrongs here, it’s a tragedy.

    Which, on being interpreted, means “If I say who is right and who is wrong I’ll never work in this town again.”

    • annie
      annie on May 31, 2012, 9:35 pm

      you said it RoHa!

      i am definitely going to see this film.

      thank you Abdeen Jabara.


  7. Sumud
    Sumud on June 1, 2012, 7:53 am

    Abdeen ~ based on your account of A.O Scott’s review it sounds like he was pushing some bog standard hasbara [to paraphrase]:

    “eternal conflict”

    …and so on and so on. In a word: bullshit.

    It is not intractable. It is not eternal. It is not complicated. All those statements are designed to demoralise people, to make them mentally reject the issue of I/P as something “too hard”.

    Don’t trust the NYT. Just don’t!

  8. proudzionist777
    proudzionist777 on June 1, 2012, 6:45 pm

    No cameras, no weekly Bil’in protests.

  9. cleo
    cleo on June 2, 2012, 12:47 am

    I saw this film at a press screening and thought it was wonderful, a searing account of life today in an almost intolerable setting and also a work of art. I’m troubled by the general assumption above that the TIMES review of the film was negative or warped by editorial bias. First, A.O. Scott chose this film to view and review from dozens of films currently opening. Then he told his readers that this is a fine film, not a political tract. A fine film is one that wins over viewers because it enters their hearts, helps them understand the suffering and the pride of people, rather than ranting and raving about who is right or wrong. Let’s give the man thanks for taking this documentary seriously and being affected by it. If we don’t we’ve lost all sense of proportion.

  10. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka on June 2, 2012, 11:52 am

    Well, A.O. Scott is a very good film reviewer, but let’s remember that his forte is not politics and he writes for one of the main hasbara organs in the US. If he were to tell the truth — that this was a brutal, calculated, racist assault on another people by Israelis Jews, the very people who are supported by the people that his paper is seeking to “service” — his job prospects might be in jeopardy. Indeed, it very well may be that Scott, too, has drunk the hasbara kool aide and cannot see a difference between the arsonist and the fireman.

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