Tonight at the Film Forum, the directors of Five Broken Cameras will be answering questions about the film, which is shot in Bil’in over the seven years of the village’s historic protests. I can’t urge you strongly enough to go.
There is a widespread sense inside our community that this film is The Horse; that it is the vehicle to bring wide attention to the horrors of the occupation. Abdeen Jabara has compared it to the Battle of Algiers. Jewish Voice for Peace is promoting the film: “5 Broken Cameras … is getting rave reviews from activists and critics alike.” “Wrenching,” Pamela Olson said to me as she was leaving the showing before mine on Sunday night, and she is right.
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.
Still from 5 Broken Cameras: Adeeb & Bassem participate in Bil’in’s weekly protest against the wall (Photo: Kino Lorber)
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.
Still from 5 Broken Cameras: Burnat’s mother pleads with an Israeli soldier to release her son Khaled after he was arrested. (Photo: Kino Lorber)
In the Q and A after the film, its producer and directors were asked about what we can do in New York—is boycott an effective tool?
It seemed like the last thing producer Richard Lorber wanted to hear; he repeated the question but left out the word boycott. Burnat said, “I think the people in the United States should see the film and understand more about the reality and the truth.” Israeli director Guy Davidi said that BDS worked in South Africa but now everything is different, for global material reasons—anyone who buys an HP printer is complicit in the technology of the wall. I found this answer diversionary and maybe reflective of the fact that Davidi got money from the Israeli government to make the movie. BDS isn’t a precise instrument; it is symbolic. And symbolic victories are having an effect; they are isolating a rogue state. Watching the film, I was for BDS more than ever.
Lorber is also chairman of the Film Forum, and he urged the packed house to go out there and push the movie.
“I feel very strongly about this film and we want to take it to the Oscars. Tell your friends. Get the butts in the seats.” He wants to show it in 20 or 30 cities.
Godspeed. The pleasure of hearing this from Lorber was the pleasure of seeing a privileged cultural operator in the US on the right side at last. I am guessing Lorber is Jewish (his office didn’t respond to an inquiry). And his stance on the issue restores a Jewish cultural position: liberal outsider siding with the oppressed, and engaged now on Israel/Palestine. It struck me that if Jews are allowed to maintain their traditional cultural leadership role, they will champion a film shot by a Palestinian. Maybe that is the deal. Well I will take it.
Let Jews be the facilitators. That’s just fine with me if this is what it takes to get the martyrdom of Bassem Abu Rahmah the attention he deserves.