By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
This year’s Oscar documentary race is particularly interesting because it features two different docs examining a controversial issue from both sides of the divide. On one hand you have The Gatekeepers, which investigates Israeli counterterrorism and security policy by the talking to the very men who implemented it. And, on the other hand, you have 5 Broken Cameras. I’ll give you one guess as to who broke them.
This documentary is comprised exclusively of footage captured by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat as he follows the growth of his son juxtaposed with the deterioration of Israeli-Palestinian relations. He has a front row seat to this history, as his small West Bank town finds itself squeezed by encroaching Israeli settlements and the ever-expanding border. The price he pays to document this ranges far beyond the cost of five cameras.
The thing to understand about this film is that it is by its nature one-sided. This is a personal story more than it is an examination of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and should only be a part of your education on the subject. It is, however, an essential piece of the puzzle. Lost in all of the news stories and think-pieces is the viewpoint of the common man, and nothing I’ve ever seen so effectively conveys the frustration and helplessness of the common Palestinian in the face of what is most definitely an injustice.
The footage isn’t misleadingly edited or overlaid with pompous opinion like quasi-documentary dreck like Fahrenheit 911. It just shows you everything in a simple linear fashion, as protests go from being met with rubber bullets to real ones, and fancy Israeli housing developments grow on legitimate Palestinian land through a combination of extra-legal tactics and the government turning a blind eye.
Gun > Law, apparently
For all of the tragedy and rage captured in this documentary, what really is remarkable about it is Emad’s ability to maintain a measure of cool-headedness and hope in the face of all of this. In a just world, this film would help catalyze efforts to forge a lasting peace in Israel/Palestine, if only to give his children the chance of a better life than their father’s.
I hadn’t been much of a sympathizer with the Palestinian cause before viewing this, but it’s hard to ignore the footage presented here, much of which is unconscionable in any context. Required viewing for anyone wanting to build a well-rounded perspective on one of the world’s biggest hot-button issues.
Take a Drink: every time Israeli soldiers show up
Take a Drink: whenever a camera breaks
Do a Shot: whenever your anger boils over