Five Broken Cameras
Whether Palestinian director Emad Burnat's documentary wins an Academy Award or not, his village’s cause is guaranteed exposure.PT3M16S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ewp4 620 349 February 22, 2013
BILIN, West Bank: The tear gas canisters lie in the bright green grass that grows next to Israel's concrete ''separation wall'' in the Palestinian village of Bilin.
Their presence is a reminder that although residents won a rare legal victory and forced a change to the wall's path, the battle to reclaim the rest of the village's land from the neighbouring settlement goes on.
It is a battle fought each week all over the West Bank, but for one startling difference: Bilin's story is the centrepiece of one of two films about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in competition for best documentary feature at the Academy Awards on Monday morning, Sydney time.
Tools of trade … Emad Burnat with his five broken cameras which he used to shoot his documentary on protests in the West Bank. Photo: AP
Filmed over several years, Five Broken Cameras documents the weekly protests against the wall, which, until the legal victory in 2007 and the military's eventual decision to follow the court ruling and tear down that section of the barrier four years later, had separated the village from half its land.
The five broken cameras belong to the co-director, filmmaker and farmer Emad Burnat, who was first given a camera to document the birth of his youngest son, Jibril, in 2005.
Each camera was broken while filming the protests against the construction of the wall through the village, which began in the same year. One camera was hit by a tear gas canister, another by a bullet, but each tells the story of a small group of protesters who demonstrated against the impact of Israel's occupation - particularly the separation wall - on Palestinian lives.
As tiny Jibril takes his first steps and utters his first words (''army'' and ''wall''), the intensity of the protests and the Israeli Defence Force response heightens.
Night-time raids and regular arrests (including of Burnat and his brother) culminate in the death of his close friend Bassem Abu-Rahme, killed in 2009 when he was hit in the chest with a high-velocity tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier.
Israel's Military Police Investigations Unit opened an inquiry into the killing of Abu-Rahme, but it has not concluded, an IDF spokesman confirmed on Thursday.
The Bilin protests attract Israeli peace activists who also demonstrate against the separation wall and the expansion of settlements onto Palestinian lands.
One was the filmmaker Guy Davidi, who, with Burnat, took the Palestinian farmer's years of footage and turned it into a deeply moving and very intimate documentary.
Burnat's decision to work with Davidi has not been without controversy; some Palestinians believe he should not have teamed up with an Israeli to produce the film.
The demonstrations in Bilin continue every Friday. Although the court win meant the wall's route was altered, there are still 150 hectares of village land on the other side of the wall.
The village of just under 2000 people lies four kilometres east of the Green Line (the internationally recognised boundary between Israel and the West Bank) and about eight kilometres from Ramallah.
The Israeli settlement of Modiin Illit - considered illegal under international law - and its neighbourhood of Matityahu East sit just beyond the separation wall, the hum of bulldozers signalling further expansion.
Pointing towards the land that lies beyond the wall, Kefah Mansour, 31, an activist from Bilin, says many local farmers lost their livelihoods when the wall was built.
''This is part of our land. The people used to work on it … When they built the wall here they uprooted a lot of olive trees and other kinds of trees from here and they prevented people coming here to their land,'' he says.
''Now after they moved the wall we have a project here. We are rehabilitating the land again for agriculture. We will plant around 700 trees here.''
Five Broken Cameras' portrayal of Bilin is just one example of a village protesting against Israel's occupation, Mansour says.
''It reflects reality of … the daily life of Palestinians under the occupation … We lost two people here. They were killed in our struggle''.
The court's rare decision to dismantle part of the wall and change its route was '' a great victory'', Mansour says, but ''there is a settlement still on our land, so we will keep struggling until we get all our rights''.
Israel insists the separation wall is needed to prevent terrorist attacks, and says it has successfully done so.
The wall is 709 kilometres long, more than twice the length of the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs says.
On Thursday, Burnat, his wife and eight-year-old son were detained at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly not having the correct invitation to the Oscars, until the US documentary-maker Michael Moore intervened, calling in lawyers for the Academy Awards to help him. Moore later tweeted Burnat had told him: ''It's nothing I'm not already used to. When you live under occupation, with no rights, this is a daily occurrence.''