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Bill Plitt, a long time friend, told me about this film, but I was leaving DC before I had a chance to see it. I hope it is still showing when I return next week.

Bill is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and has spent much of his life working with children and families in education. Most recently, among other activities, he has been director of community outreach for Friends of Tent of Nations North America, which supports cross-cultural understanding and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.


Movie: Five Broken Cameras, Review by Bill Plitt

Last Friday, my wife and I, along with some friends went to see the documentary, Five Broken Cameras at “E” Street Theatre in Washington D.C where it was showing in a limited engagement of two weeks- pity.   We read the review in The Post, nudged by our friends of Jewish Voices for Peace, and went to see it for ourselves.  We knew it had won the Sundance Film Festival Award in January for World Cinema Documentary Director Award.  It was worth the venture we thought.  So we went.

We were shocked by the portrayal of the lives of one family, the villagers, the neighboring settlers and the Israeli Army, even though many of us already had an image based on frequent trips to the region.  We weren’t prepared for what followed, however.

Here is synopsis of the film from the Sundance Festival site:

“Five broken cameras—and each one has a powerful tale to tell. Embedded in the bullet-ridden remains of digital technology is the story of Emad Burnat, a farmer from the Palestinian village of Bil’in, which famously chose nonviolent resistance when the Israeli army encroached upon its land to make room for Jewish colonists. Emad buys his first camera in 2005 to document the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. Over the course of the film, he becomes the peaceful archivist of an escalating struggle as olive trees are bulldozed, lives are lost, and a wall is built to segregate burgeoning Israeli settlements.

“Gibreel’s loss of innocence and the destruction of each camera are potent metaphors in a deeply personal documentary that vividly portrays a conflict many of us think we know. Emad Burnat, a Palestinian, joins forces with Guy Davidi, an Israeli, and—from the wreckage of five broken cameras—two filmmakers create one extraordinary work of art”.

You can view a trailer on: http://vimeo.com/15843191

As the movie ended, we sat for awhile, stunned by the portrayal of real lives, over real time -a five year period.   The movie kept returning in my mind for several days afterwards, and still does today as I write this review.      I know that some would say that the film portrays a one-sided view, but it’s a view that I have come to recognize in my work in the region over the same time period of this film.  Startling is the impact of such injustice on its players- all of them.   None emerged unscathed by the fear factor created by the separation, and encouraged by the occupation.

For the Palestinians, the fear of losing their homes and olive trees, drives the non-violent resistance movement against the construction of the wall through their village.  For the Israeli soldiers, the fear of losing control, unleashes a arsenal of weaponry followed by the  disproportionate  stone throwing of Palestinians.  For the ultra orthodox settlers, the fear of being ousted from their “promised land”, spurs  them into physically assaulting the villagers whom they seem to not really know in their flailing.  I think of David and Goliath as I watch the encounters.

For me the documentary, captures a deeper realm of humanity, however, and its the absence of a moral outrage to treatment of innocent people who are responding non-violently to their loss of human dignity.   During one scene, there is a slow, agonizing portrayal of a field of century old olive trees burning, smoldering in the night air; absent are any of the players, but alone are the dying trees.

In the end, the Wall was diverted away from the village, but what a price to pay.  The film left me wondering who were the victors, and where are we?

BP 7/20/12