The critically-acclaimed 5 BROKEN CAMERAS is a deeply personal, first-hand account of life and non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village surrounded by Israeli settlements. Shot by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, Gibreel, the film was co-directed by Burnat and Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker. Structured in chapters around the destruction of each one of Burnat’s cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over six years of village upheaval. As the years pass in front of the camera, we witness Gibreel grow from a newborn baby into a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him with the astute powers of perception that only children possess. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify and lives are lost in this cinematic diary and unparalleled record of life in the West Bank. 5 BROKEN CAMERAS is a Palestinian-Israeli-French co-production.
Other filmmakers made films around the resistance in Bil’in and many of them utilized Emad’s footage, as he was the only cameraman of the village. He had access that others didn’t have. He was the one who could film the soldiers and the raids at night when the other cameramen left. These events were sometimes violent, and many times, he was in danger for filming. In 2006 he was arrested and accused for throwing rocks and spent weeks in jail and under house arrest – after which, his cameras were broken. It was the peace activists and donors that helped to get Emad new cameras, so that he could continue to film and document what was happening. Right from the start, Israeli and international peace activists helped and participated in the movement against the separation wall. Filmmaker Guy Davidi came to Bil’in in 2005 as a sympathizer and a media activist in the Indymedia group. He knew Emad as most people did, as Emad became an important figure of Bil’in’s movement.
After making some short films in the village, Guy started making his first feature documentary on the politics of water. This film “Interrupted Streams” was shot in Bil’in from 2005 – 2008. It was finished in 2010 and premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival that year. During his work on this film, Guy stayed for several months in Bil’in. It was during this time that allowed him to develop his perspective and feel the meaning of life for the villagers under occupation. At night, soldiers invaded the village and he was the only Israeli around. So, the villagers called Guy to bring his cameras and film what was about to happen and to use the cameras to protect them from the violence.
During these nights both Emad and Guy found themselves filming side by side. When Emad asked Guy to join into the project in 2009 they have decided rather than focusing on the story of non-violent movement in the village put the focus on Emad himself as camera-man, a husband and a father.
The film was released in November 2011 in International Film Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA) where it won the Audience Award and the Special Jury Award in North America it screened in Sundance 2012 where it took the Directing Award. After winning more than 40 awards worldwide the film was nominated to the 85th academy award in the Best Feature Documentary. In 2013 the film won the Best Documentary in the International Emmy Award.
When we started this project, we knew we would be criticized for working together. Emad would be asked why he chose to make the film with an Israeli, and Guy would be asked why he chose to make the film with a Palestinian. Still, the actual differences between us were something we could not avoid: we have different cultural backgrounds and different privileges, and we had to learn to use them in a constructive way. There are also different expectations for us as a result of our identities.
When we finally decided to make the film, we decided it had to be as intimate and personal as possible. That was the only way to tell the story in a new and emotional way. For Emad, this was not an obvious or simple decision. Exposure can be flattering, but it can also be risky. On the other hand, the film had be focused on Emad’s narrative, with Guy taking the role of storyteller.
We hope that people come to see the film with open minds and without foregone conclusions. When watching a film that deals with such a painful controversy, we know that people tend to shut down. Most of us divide the world into right and wrong, good and bad, Palestinian and Israeli. We immediately take a side that corresponds to our identity, life experience, or ideology, even though these loyalties prevent us from fully experiencing the world. Reality is wonderfully complex, and we become frustrated when people fight to look at it with only one or two filters.
5 Broken Cameras was made to inspire, and not just to be interpreted as part of the political discourse – although it is, of course, an important part of it. We made the film with sincere initiative, trying to challenge our own assumptions and avoid cliché. In the end, we hope everyone will come away with open hearts.
Born in Jaffa, Guy Davidi is a documentary filmmaker and teacher who has been directing, editing, and shooting films since the age of 16. His short documentaries include In Working Progress, Keywords, and Women Defying Barriers; his first feature film, Interrupted Streams, premiered in 2010 at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
A lifelong inhabitant of the Palestinian village of Bil’in, Emad Burnat is a farmer and freelance cameraman. He has contributed to several documentaries, including Bil’in My Love, Palestine Kids, Open Close, and Interrupted Streams.
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
Véronique Lagoarde – Ségot - Guy Davidi
Critics' Pick! A visual essay in autobiography and, as such, a modest, rigorous and moving work of art. Deserves to be appreciated for the lyrical delicacy of [Burnat's] voice and the precision of his eye."
A.O. Scott, The New York Times
"Gripping from the get go...a powerful act of witnessing. To see it is to wonder what it would have been like to have a black Alabaman's 8mm documentation of the civil rights struggle."
J. Hoberman, Artinfo
"Four stars! Eye-opening...a proudly defiant work."
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"An essential work both on filmmaking and political activism, 5 Broken Cameras provides a birdsong of perseverance in the face of irrational violence, immense historical anger, and grim, seemingly insurmountable realities."
Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine
"Displays both distinction and the emergence of a significant talent. Presents vivid witness to the power of the image to help with...healing."
George Robinson, The Jewish Week
Guy Davidi has been making films since he was 16 years old. He has been involve in many projects. The following are just a sample.
A Work in ProgressWatch Trailer
Women Defying BarriersWatch Trailer
Interrupted StreamsWatch Trailer
Host a screening or a lecture with Guy Davidi about 5 Broken Cameras. He has given many master classes about his films and is working as a film development and editing consultant. He also gives talks about different aspects of Israeli society from a critical perspective.
Host a screening or a lecture with Emad Burnat to hear about life under occupation, the non-violent movement and his work as a camera man in Bil'in.
Please feel free to contact Guy Davidi with questions or comments.