For five years, Palestian farmer Emad Burnat filmed his life in Bil’in, a small West Bank village. He bought his first camera to record the birth of his son in 2005, but was soon filming something much more dramatic. A barrier was being erected and land that belonged to the people of Bil’in was being taken to build homes. The villagers begin non-violent demonstrations protesting the fence, but are met with resistance by the Israeli army. Emad’s story is told through the destruction of his five cameras, with each new camera representing another part of the growing conflict. 5 Broken Cameras opens Friday, June 22, 2012 at Hot Docs Bloor Cinema.
The film begins peacefully enough as Emad films his newborn son. The fence is just being built at this point, and villagers are obviously upset. Many of their olive trees are now surrounded by that fence and they decide that something must be done. Emad finds himself filming more and more of the peaceful demonstrations, eventually realizing the importance of what he’s capturing. While the village follows a strict non-violence stand, the Israeli army does not. Their protests are always met with tear gas and gunfire, although they’ve really done nothing to encourage the violence they receive.
As the protests continue on an almost weekly basis, the Israeli army becomes more aggressive. Their actions can only be described as disgusting. The film is sure to ignite anger in viewers as it becomes impossible to understand the things that the Israeli army does. The villagers of Bil’in aren’t even allowed to attempt a peaceful protest. Soldiers will drive up, step from their vehicles, and immediately begin firing tear gas into the crowd. The villagers continue to take a non-violent stance, even as some of them are arrested, shot, or killed. They never waver from their goal, stating that if the fence is even moved a yard further away, they’ve won.
Emad’s wife begins to feel his life is in danger and asks him numerous times to stop filming for the sake of his family, but Emad can’t. Nothing will stop the protesters from demanding what is rightfully theirs, so nothing can stop Emad from filming and giving viewers a very personal insight into the conflicts. The longer the conflict continues, the more shocking the behaviour we’re witness to. Soldiers come into the village at night to arrest children, hoping that it will force the protests to stop. At one point, they declare that Emad and his family must leave their home. Even after all of this, they still continue their protest.
Just watching the film gives the viewer a sense of impending doom, so one can only imagine what it must be like to live in that area. Throughout the film, we also watch as Emad’s son grows up in the conflict, losing his innocence as he’s subjected to more violence. His life is shaped by the events around him, much like our experience is shaped by the images displayed in the film. It’s easy to become angry at what’s going on, but the fact that the villagers never give up on achieving their goal through non-violent protest is inspiring.