His West Bank hometown of Bil’in having turned into a site of weekly civil disobedience and provocative Israeli land development, Palestinian Emad Burnat, a family man, took to documenting the clash, beginning in 2005. Unwittingly, he started calling himself a journalist—isn’t that often how it happens?—and while Burnat’s equipment suffered the brunt of his risk (see title), the results are eye-opening. Sharpened into an adrenalizing narrative by codirector Guy Davidi, 5 Broken Cameras places you squarely in the face of interrogating Israeli soldiers or dangerously close to Humvees being pelted with rocks. Blocky settlements and separation barriers materialize over the years; we come to recognize the main protesters and worry about their safety every time they approach the front lines.
A little voice tells you this can’t be the whole story. (One nervous Israeli settler is captured barking into his cell, “Get the furniture here, fast!”) What this assemblage is, instead, is a proudly defiant work, devoted to a community and created by its members. There has to be room for this kind of plea, especially a work that, obliquely, captures so many largely unreported details: the night raids rounding up children, the torn-up olive trees and kids’ soccer games in the battle zone. Over the years, Burnat’s four sons enjoy birthday cakes and go to school; the happy footage bumps up against the rioting, yet another element in the continuum of domestic life. Troublesome, worthy.
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