Documentaries are probably the best way of getting a true glimpse at a director’s vision. In the case of the film 5 Broken Cameras, to be screened Nov. 12, nothing could be more true.
The documentary tells the story of Emad Burnat, a Palestinian farmer and the film’s director, whose family has been cultivating olives on the land near his village for generations.
Around the time that his fourth son is born, Emad begins filming the changes brought on in his community by the increasing territory infringement of the Israeli development that is being created on the land opposite his village. Slowly but surely we witness how the separation between the people becomes increasingly visible, the Israeli development encompassing more and more of the land that once belonged to the filmmaker’s village.
As violence escalates between the two opposing parties, we witness how Emad, one by one, loses each of his beloved cameras at the hands of injury or tragedy. Symbolism is one of the director’s fortés, and the cameras respectively represent “game changing” moments in the Emad’s life, such as when he gets shot or gets interviewed in jail. He attempts to illustrate the ever-growing disparities that exist between these two groups of people fighting for the respect of their rights and the rights of their people. Eventually the conflict between the two people becomes physical; Israeli troops are brought in to build a wall of steel and wire which eventually becomes concrete in order to keep the two cultures as separate as possible.
The documentary is a beautiful portrayal of how cinematography can serve the people. Though gritty and slow at times the film was understandably praised during its screening at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, taking home the World Cinema Directing Award.
5 Broken Cameras is, if anything, a reminder that sometimes an image is worth much more than words and that a metaphor, like the wall erected between these remote developments, can carry the history of cultures and conflict beyond our most fathomable imagination.
5 Broken Cameras screens Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. in Room H-110, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd.