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‘5 Broken Cameras’ and ‘The Gatekeepers’ nominated for Best Documentary Oscar

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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.

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of

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38 Responses

  1. just on January 10, 2013, 2:36 pm

    Well- deserved & super news.

  2. Chu on January 10, 2013, 2:36 pm

    Good Lord. Vanessa Redgrave’s speech to the Oscar’s was in 1978 talking about Zionist hoodlums and Chayefsky flipped out on her speech. 35 years later, not one, but two films critical of Israel are nominated.
    Academy votes tally about 6000 this year and those are mostly actors (1311), Meaning there are about 4700 non actor votes. The academy does not disclose it membership.
    I think it’s a closed system that can twist arms to flush out certain films. But we’ll have to wait and see, wont we.

  3. German Lefty on January 10, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Great news. I just heard it on German TV.

    • LeaNder on January 11, 2013, 8:44 am

      I wonder what channel you heard it on. When I read your note, I checked online the news section the main public channels the first, second, Arte, 3Sat, Phoenix. The nomination of “The Gatekeepers” was mentioned but not even a whisper about “Five Broken Cameras”. Now in the case of Arte this may not have been too surprising since they were among the co-producers of The Gatekeepers, as they told us; but strictly they also used most of the culture space for Margrethe von Trotta’s new Hannah Arendt movie.

      I am curious, honestly. I am not too much into the private channels and have no idea what your local third would be.

      • German Lefty on January 11, 2013, 11:14 am

        I wonder what channel you heard it on. […] The nomination of “The Gatekeepers” was mentioned but not even a whisper about “Five Broken Cameras”.
        It was the “Tagesschau” on ARD.
        You are right. Only the nomination of “The Gatekeepers” was mentioned. I didn’t watch the entire program. I was zapping around and when I suddenly heard something about Israel, I stuck with the channel. My assumption was that “5 Broken Cameras” had been mentioned before I switched to the program.

      • LeaNder on January 11, 2013, 12:39 pm

        Thanks, Lefty, maybe one could get one of the teams of the culture programs to do something on both of them. Hmm or for that matter people working in the field. Interesting “5 broken cameras” made it anyway.

  4. annie on January 10, 2013, 3:50 pm

    this is excellent news. our local peace and justice group hosted co director Emad Burnat’s brother Iyad Burnat on his speaking tour tuesday night and there was a free showing of 5 Broken Cameras. the church was packed and organizers raised a generous sum for the Popular Resistance Movement.

    Iyad Burnat is head of the Bil’in Popular Committee and a leader in the village’s resistance movement. him and his wife hosted us at his home when we visited bil’in in ’09 so naturally i jumped at the opportunity for him to visit my home. we had a loverly little dinner party before the movie.

    he’s a captivating speaker. it was really a fun evening. the response to the film was fantastic and there were a lot of local people who i had never seen before at any of the local palestinian activist events.

    i am thrilled about this development.

    • irishmoses on January 10, 2013, 4:09 pm

      Is Burnat speaking in Southern California? The link covers NoCal only.

      Mondoweiss should have a calendar to keep readers up to date on events like this one. This type of thing needs publicity to be effective.



    • bintbiba on January 10, 2013, 7:28 pm

      Just one little comment: Bassem Abu Rahmah ,that great big amazing hero,was given the nickname “!Feel! ” (Arabic for Elephant). Not to be confused with Phil,with a short i.
      He lives on in all our hearts.

      • bintbiba on January 11, 2013, 6:35 am

        Addendum: Phil, with short i …. No less of a living hero in my eyes.

      • Shmuel on January 11, 2013, 6:56 am

        Bassem Abu Rahmah ,that great big amazing hero,was given the nickname “!Feel! ” (Arabic for Elephant).

        I first began thinking about the elephants during the war, when I was a prisoner in Germany, probably because they were the most different thing I could imagine from what surrounded me: they were the very image of immense liberty. Every time we looked at the barbed wire or were almost dying of misery and claustrophobia in solitary confinement, we tried to think of those big animals marching irresistibly through the open spaces of Africa, and it made us feel better. Barely alive, starved, exhausted, we would clench our teeth and follow our great free herds obstinately with our eyes, and see them march across the savanna and over the hills, and we could almost hear the earth tremble under that living mass of freedom. We tried not to speak of it, for fear the guards would notice, and sometimes we would just look at each other and wink, and then we knew that it was all right, that we could still see it, that it was still alive in us. We held on to the image of that gigantic liberty, and somehow it helped us to survive.

        —Romain Gary, The Roots of Heaven

      • bintbiba on January 11, 2013, 7:19 am

        Shmuel, that is beautiful! Brought tears . And Hope!
        Thank you.

  5. just on January 10, 2013, 3:57 pm

    That was one hell of a speech, Chu. I’ll never forget it. Nor this, (wiki):

    “When Redgrave was nominated for an Oscar in 1978, for her role in Julia, members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), led by Rabbi Meir Kahane, burned effigies of Redgrave and picketed the Academy Awards ceremony to protest against both Redgrave and her support of the Palestinian cause.[15]”

    Nor will I forget Marlon Brando’s boycott of the Oscar’s, and Sacheen Littlefeather’s speech in his stead on the behalf of Native Americans.

  6. Cliff on January 10, 2013, 4:02 pm

    Great news.

  7. doug on January 10, 2013, 7:24 pm

    Laura Rozen tweets: “Anyone know where to see “The Gatekeepers” in DC?

    Seems there is a very large dam breaking loose.

  8. tombishop on January 11, 2013, 12:34 am

    ‘Five Broken Cameras’ is available in DVD from Netflix.

  9. DICKERSON3870 on January 11, 2013, 1:58 am

    RE: “[T]oday the film 5 Broken Cameras was nominated for the 2013 Best Documentary Feature Oscar award.” ~ Adam Horowitz

    AT NETFLIX BEGINNING 1/15/13: 5 Broken Cameras, 2012, NR, 90 minutes
    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 Format: DVD available 1/15/2013
    Netflix Listing –

  10. gingershot on January 11, 2013, 9:06 am

    Palestinians erect tent city in E-1 to protest settlement construction

    Police block off area; group behind the protest in the E-1 corridor, between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank, says it will not leave until ‘Palestinian owners of this land are allowed to realize their right to it.’

    from Haaretz this am

    Wake me UP! Am I still dreaming?

    Palestinians have the formula now for One State and the end of Apartheid. next are elections and Marwan Barghouti as president first of Palestine and then of the One State

  11. DaveS on January 11, 2013, 9:48 am

    Excellent news. However, my prediction is that neither one will win. One obvious problem is that the two films will split the vote of those who are inclined to support such work. Another problem is what Chu referred to. There will be an effort to discredit these movies, as there was with Paradise Now, the excellent movie nominated about 7 years ago for best foreign film. It was not a straight ideological polemic, but certainly did humanize suicide bombers. Although it won at the Golden Globes, a South African movie called Tsotsi, very good but not great, took the Oscar. There had been overt pressure against Paradise Now, and this time I think it will be more subtle, but I’d be surprised to see either one of these entries win.

    Sugarman is a very moving film with a great story and I think it will win.

  12. Citizen on January 12, 2013, 9:47 am

    Here’s 5 Broken Cameras in English:

  13. eileenfleming on January 12, 2013, 11:41 am

    The film nails the occupation nearly as much as the actual experience can and i write from experience as I have been to Bil’in five times beginning in Jan. 2006.

    After viewing “5 Broken Cameras”-at the moment it is streaming in full at Youtube with English subtitles–I wrote “America’s Part in 5 Broken Cameras” this morning and regarding “The Gatekeepers” I have only just begun as Israel’s Nuclear Whistle Blower, Mordechai Vanunu wrote on 21 December 2012-after a 19 month wait for a response:

    “The interior minister answer my letter to him to cancel my Israel citizenship. He wrote, I will be happy to do it, but security people don’t recommend it because I can damage Israel image and security.

    “He also quote from the Bible. Isaiah 49:17, ‘They that destroy thee and make thee waste shall go out of thee’ and Proverbs 13:2, ‘From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence’ ending his letter with Hebrew word Hamas.

    “So this you tube- Vanunu Mordechai asking Revoking israel citizenship 2012. -will be here, until Freedom come.” -excerpted from “Vanunu VS SECURITY’S Stupid Vendetta and The Silence of The Media” @

  14. clenchner on January 12, 2013, 11:46 am

    I don’t understand why this film isn’t being boycotted. I was reviewing the discussion around Ajami from a few years ago, and it seems that 5 Broken Cameras violates the PACBI rules in a similar manner. It was funded in part by an Israeli state institution, the success of this film reflects well on the Israeli film industry, it showcases a Palestinian violating the the call against normalization by working with an Israeli – one with financing from the Israeli state.
    See here:

    If this film is NOT addressed by the cultural boycott…. at the very least we should hear a revision of the rule express by the link. A Palestinian working with an Israeli and getting Israeli state financing and being showcased as an Israeli film? Saying that this should not be the target of a boycott seems to be an example of carving out exemptions for political convenience.

    In short, the difference in the BDS’s movement response to Ajami and 5 Broken Cameras show something inconsistent. Though surely some pilpul can explain how they shouldn’t be lumped together.

    (Great film of course. Hope it wins and has a strong impact.)

    • Avi_G. on January 12, 2013, 12:36 pm

      Your malice is pathetic and tedious.

    • Donald on January 12, 2013, 1:57 pm

      I’m too lazy to read your Ajami link, but you might have a point. A blanket cultural boycott doesn’t strike me personally as a good idea if it would mean boycotting films that are provocative and should be widely viewed.

      I say “might have a point” because I haven’t followed the details of the BDS movement, so I don’t know how flexible or inflexible, consistent or inconsistent it has been.

      • Cliff on January 12, 2013, 2:22 pm

        Donald, I wrote a long post citing a EI article that DISPELLS OldClench’s bullshit but Phil and Adam censored it because they are as ethnocentric as the Jewish nationalists that steal Palestinian land.

      • annie on January 12, 2013, 5:24 pm

        censored it because they are as ethnocentric as the Jewish nationalists that steal Palestinian land.

        hi cliff, i didn’t see the comment in question but thought i would give you (and everyone) a little heads up. the site is making an effort to be more stringent wrt personal insults. as a member of the staff i sometimes have to hold back the kinds of expressions i regularly use in my daily life. you have a lot of great ideas, arguments and comments. perhaps if you held back peppering your comments with words like ‘bullshit’ and ‘troll’ more of your ideas/arguments would get thru. have you ever noticed how some people might get away with saying virtually the very same arguments you’ve made and it gets thru?

        the next time one of your comments doesn’t make it, try posting it again cutting out the harsh descriptors of the specific person you are addressing. you just might find it gets published the second time around, or third, or forth. others may have figured this out, for some it takes longer. but don’t assume it’s because of your ideas your comment is not getting thru, it could be the language you use to express them. (just a hunch) especially if your comment is just sitting there for a long long time unpublished and yet not deleted (although not always the case, sometimes there’s just a backup of unpublished comments) .

      • Cliff on January 12, 2013, 5:52 pm

        Hi annie,

        You’re absolutely right about my abrasiveness (and sometimes off-the-rails craziness).

        That being said, Zionist commentators can be completely civil but respond to a topic on the dispossession of a Palestinian family with a statement like:

        ‘Wonderful to see my people in their homeland.’

        It’s that kind of instigation that should also be censored. The story of the topic is sad and demonstrates the ‘Chinatown’-like [as in the movie] corruption/lawlessness/’bad guy getting away’ zeitgeist of this conflict.

        And then along comes the Zionist troll, essentially gloating. I mean, they ARE gloating. There’s no other way to interpet it.

        That being said, do whatever you want with my comment but I bet everyone here who opposes Zionism is FEELING close to or exactly as I feel. They just don’t say it because they’ve probably learned to just let that anger go.

        After all, this has been going on for 60+ years. We all know the various memes and charades of this conflict. We know Zionism and it’s talking points inside out. But some of us (me), will never get used to the instigation and gloating. In other words, the blatant EVIL and the attitude of enjoying being evil, espoused by the Zionist commentators here.

      • annie on January 13, 2013, 5:49 am

        ‘Wonderful to see my people in their homeland.’

        It’s that kind of instigation that should also be censored.

        hi cliff, i know, life’s unfair (i don’t mean that as a snark). it may warm your heart to know, as a person with access to the trash pile of unauthorized comments, i can assure you many more of their comments don’t make the grade. (nakba denial looms large in their repertoire)

        another thing since we are on the topic. it always amazes me when people assume phil and adam personally moderate (or even view)a majority of the threads here on a regular basis. they don’t, they’re busy people (it actually takes time to write and research these article, i know..shocking eh. as unfathomable as it may seem, they do not have more hrs in the day then the rest of us. they also sleep and eat which takes time) and i seriously doubt either spend a lot of time in the comment threads. often squeaky wheels get the grease and it just so happens there are quite a few pro israel whiners who do not like being personally insulted. as a staff member when people write in to phil and adam to complain about their treatment in the threads sometimes they cc everyone on staff so i’ve read some of these. and when that happens it calls attention to a particlular thread, phil or adam may check it out. iow, it’s time consuming to deal with these issues for the benefit of one frustrated abrasive person to express themselves. i’ve blown up at people in the threads before and it cause a lot of hassle for the site (emails flying), needless to say i have had to tone down my delivery. so just be mindful of that if your comment is not moderated and a few hrs later once your anger is not felt so acutely come back and try posting again.

        iow one can claim someone is diverting, evading the issue, disrupting the topic, all that stuff. but if you conclude they are doing that because they are a ‘spamming zio-supremist parasite troll’ the comment (with all the other great paragraphs of argument it contains) falls into risk and might get cut.

        do whatever you want with my comment but I bet everyone here who opposes Zionism is FEELING close to or exactly as I feel. They just don’t say it because they’ve probably learned to just let that anger go.

        oh, they say it cliff. you just won’t get to read it when it violates the comment policy

        please review #4. you can imagine we “FEEL” less, or not. but please do not imagine anyone has ‘just let that anger go’. we don’t. we all have anger and have to we deal with it every. single. day.

        there’s a lesson to be learned from palestinians..sumud. we have to keep going. we have to deal with it and stay sane. your voice is important. so when your comment doesn’t pass moderation, try try and try again, sans the individually targeted cutting personal insults. or not, your choice. but remember it is primarily not your loss, it becomes a loss for the community who will not hear you.

      • Cliff on January 15, 2013, 7:40 am

        Thanks for your response Annie.

      • annie on January 15, 2013, 4:36 pm

        my pleasure cliff, your voice matters.

    • justicewillprevail on January 12, 2013, 7:03 pm

      Clench, you are just stirring it, creating a wilful and deliberate misunderstanding in order to muddy the waters. So you really care about BDS enough to be concerned about this? Sure you do. If you are looking for the breaking of rules and examples of hypocrisy, well there are myriads of examples of them here every day. Guess by who. Maybe you should take them up?

      For the record, Cliff was trying to link to:

      which addresses the faux controversy, with some very good comments btl, explaining the inevitable contradictions of film-makers who have to operate in an occupied country under byzantine occupation rules.

      • clenchner on January 12, 2013, 8:41 pm

        Justice, I’ll admit to stirring, but not to ‘just’ stirring it. I’ll also admit to not caring for BDS in particular – it’s just a wide range of tactics that sometimes poses as a movement, and in so doing creates a problem.
        There is a movement for the recognition of Palestinian rights, for equality in Israel, independence for Palestine, and of course for peace. Proponents of BDS are part of this movement, and so are some opponents of BDS. The most sensible faction lies in the middle, carefully avoiding BDS movement talk while supporting specific campaigns when and where useful.
        I remember conversations about excellent Israeli films (including Ajami), but beyond that the entire ‘Other Israel’ film festival in New York. And in those conversations, the most stringent pro-BDS folks uttered precisely the kind of nonsense that would result in the boycott of 5 Broken Cameras. The Davidi recognizes this fact in his public statement following the Oscar nomination.
        The EI post is an example of pilpul, the legalistic explication of a principal to draw a dividing line that is otherwise quite hidden. It only needed to be written because my question above is fair and obvious.
        If the next Israeli-Palestinian co-production is non political, or less political, or expresses a politics less pure, how will it’s inclusion or exclusion from the boycott be explained?

        Again, great film. What a thrill if this production actually wins!

      • Cliff on January 15, 2013, 7:57 am

        Why does the adjective ‘Israeli’ have to be synonymous with Israel the State and government and army and Zionism?

        This film was funded in part by Israelis. Did those same Israelis drop white phosphorous on Gaza in 08′?

        A cultural boycott of all things Israeli should be within the framework of Brand Israel. Personally, I think everything is Brand Israel unless it is expression working against Zionist colonialism and apartheid.

        A blanket boycott even against anti-Zionistic Israelis, whether in part or whole, makes no sense.

        And this doesn’t mean that Davidi is anti-Zionist. It means his contribution and involvement is close to or in that vein.

        People should see this documentary. In seeing it, providing they aren’t religious fanatics for Israel or otherwise hardcore Zionists, they will be persuaded. The hope is that this persuasion translates to political capital for the Palestinians.

        Everything contributes to chipping away at the Wall of Zionism.

        Even if people disagree about 1SS or 2SS.

        Zionists bring up the alleged ambiguity regarding BDS’s stance on a 1SS.

        And Finkelstein exploits this ambiguity as part of his attack on the ‘movement’.

        But none of these things matter. BDS is not obligated to be precise in its goals regarding 1 or 2 States.

        BDS is a tactic. BDS proponents aren’t blowing themselves up or dropping bombs on schools and farms or demolishing homes to make way for X ethnic group.

        These standards expected of BDS are absurd and almost all of the critics are the usual Zionist suspects.

        BDS should remain ambiguous and focus on Palestinian rights, Israeli apartheid and colonialism, etc.

        The 2SS is over and haranguing BDS over its supposed ambiguity (I admit to not knowing enough about its stance on 1 or 2SS) is textbook Israeli narcissism. The real physical obstruction and destruction of the 2SS is the Jewish settlements and continued colonization of Palestinian land.

        The real physical actions are being made by the Israeli government with support from American politicians.

        Conversely, BDS informs the public and attempts to make Israel a pariah while simultaneously reframing the narrative of this conflict that has been, for so long, hijacked by the likes our resident hasbarists, not-a-Zionist Zionists, liberal Zionists, etc.

        If it is good for the Palestinians and continues to undermine the Israeli occupation, colonization, apartheid, etc. WHILE being non-violent – I think it’s acceptable as part of BDS.

  15. Avi_G. on January 12, 2013, 6:22 pm

    Phil and Adam censored it because they are as ethnocentric as the Jewish nationalists that steal Palestinian land.


    That’s a very harsh and extremely unfair thing to say.

    • on January 12, 2013, 8:04 pm

      “also ethnocentric, as Jewish nationalists who are apparently not stealing Palestinian land.”

      There. More precise. No swearing, either. Is that one to your taste?

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