5 Broken Cameras captures true injustice

Typically, the cinema offers a haven for escapism; a chance to enter a world of fantasy, to live vicariously through a hero or become immersed in a tale of mystery.  Even the non-fictional presentations of documentaries usually aim to amuse.  In these instances, critics will discuss and debate the merits, form, and value of the films on offer.  However, every so often a documentary like 5 Broken Cameras comes along that reminds the viewer how meaningless all that business really is.  How can a star count or a number be applied to a film that introduces a man fighting for his freedom only to be shot dead later on?  The struggles of the Palestinian town conveyed in Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s 5 Broken Cameras is simply too moving and still too relevant to be assigned some trivial rating.

The documentary is made up of footage from five different video cameras wielded by Burnat, each representing a different period of his life prior to their destruction in the field.  In 5 Broken Cameras he has documented the progress of Israeli settlements that have gobbled up land belonging to his West Bank village.  Burnat has captured years of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation and the frequent result: a brutal, violent response from the Israeli armed forces.  The dedicated spirit of the defiant villagers, in the face of this repeated, unrelenting mistreatment is both inspiring and heart-breaking.  Burnat explains his motivation for continuing on in his role, despite placing himself directly in harm’s way by doing so: “I have to believe that capturing these images will have some meaning”.  Meaningful they most certainly are, but definitely nothing for a measly journalist to pass judgment upon.

5 Broken Cameras is a startling look into a world infrequently represented in the west.  For that fact alone, it’s essential viewing for anyone who isn’t content to turn a blind eye to the injustices that are occurring in that region.  Burnat’s film also touches on an alarming aspect, as reflected by his own young son: what is the impact of this oppression on the Palestinian children?  Will they grow up with hatred in their heart and choose a different course of opposition than that taken by their parents? It’s a question that has severe implications and not just for those in the Middle East.  5 Broken Cameras illustrates a peaceful dignity in the victims that may not transfer well through future generations at the rate matters are progressing.  Beyond the highly personal tales told in this deeply affecting documentary, it is this uncertain future that looms largest.

Much like Julia Bacha’s Budrus before it, 5 Broken Cameras humanises the West bank conflict by giving a voice to those who have none beyond their borders.  In an ideal world, this film would play to large audiences or concerned citizens around the planet.  Of course, in a truly ideal world a film like 5 Broken Cameras wouldn’t be necessary to begin with.  Compelling and heart-wrenchingly poignant, 5 Broken Cameras deserves to be seen.  As a cinematic work, 5 Broken Cameras is certainly a strong film, but the message it contains is too significant to be restrained to such paltry qualifiers.

5 Broken Cameras is in UK cinemas 19 October

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Amateur film critic and photographer residing in sunny London.