Wed 20 Feb 2013
Two of the five documentary films competing for the Academy Awards (‘Oscars’) that will be distributed a few days from now deal with the conflict between Jews and Arabs, between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land. The Gatekeepers was distributed commercially and is on screens for several weeks here in Israel, while ’5 Broken Cameras’ was presented on cable TV a couple of months ago, and this week it was broadcast again, including an almost prime time spot scheduled for tonight on the most popular mainstream commercial channel. This is a good thing, and for the Israeli audiences both movies are highly relevant, as they show different aspects and different perspective of the conflict. There are many differences of course in styles, approaches, characters but the reality is the same, a complex reality with many pieces of puzzle and the more you know, the better.
The concept and the story of the making of ’5 Broken Cameras’ is pretty unusual. Israeli film-maker Guy Davidi met in 2005 Emad Burat, a Palestinian inhabitant of the village of Bil’in. This place is well known in the area because the wall of separation between Israel and the Palestinian territories passes in the neighborhood, separating inhabitants from their fields and orchards, and this led to several lawsuits and permanent protests and confrontations with the army some of which turned violent, which were also widely covered by the Israeli and international press and TV. Emad received in 2005 a first camera from Davidi, a camera which covered not only the incidents around the construction of the wall, but also the life of the inhabitants and of the family, the permanent tension between occupation, protests and the need to run normal lives. Since then he is filming until today, actually if I am not mistaken being a cameraman became his profession. In time five cameras broke, most of them during the various incidents, and the cameras themselves became together with the material that was filmed part of the testimony.
At no moment does the film make the claim that it is impartial. It would be an impossible claim to make as the five cameras are hold by a person directly involved in the conflict, the commentary is made by the same person, and what we see and hear is a part of the close and harsh reality the author and his family lives in. Eventually both ’5 Broken Cameras’ and ‘The Gatekeepers’ despite their differences share the same problem. Their contents are highly relevant for the Israeli audiences, and the Israelis should watch them in order to understand the consequences of the occupation, the suffering of the other side, the dangers of the status-quo and of the lack of progress in the peace process. However, this is not the whole picture, this is one piece of a complex puzzle, of a long history, complicated present and uncertain future. Of course, there is that much one film (or two films) can show, and reflecting one aspect of the reality is important. The film should be taken for what it is, and the piece of reality that this film is showing should not be confused with the whole reality, as as part of the truth does not equal the whole truth.