Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

“What I have to film demands a strong camera. Not a fragile one.” – Ermad

5 Broken Cameras

Embedded documentaries, whether in international crises or international conflict, are all the rage at the moment. At places like Sundance and the Oscars they’re grabbing awards left and right largely because they challenge the idea of received information and, importantly, give us a more earth-bound perspective of what’s going on in the world around us. At their best, they’re revelatory. At worst, incoherent.

This film is both. Sometimes neither. It follows the life of a Palestinian farmer as he navigates years in a border-town under frequent threat from Israeli forces. We watch him grapple with the loss of friends, family, and even his own livelihood in an effort to document the fleeting world around him. The filmmaker, Ermad Burnat (along with director Guy Davidi) utilizes a variety of hand-held recorders to document his changing world. The film breaks down into sections addressing political protest, life at home, and Ermad’s explorations of his past via the camera and narration. In that regard it’s a deeply simple film, though one which attempts to transmute complex circumstances surrounding geo-political strife into a personal and human story. It’s often effective, as when one of his children begins learning his first words. Words like “shell”, reflective of the troubling world these children are growing into. This film is unabashedly pro-Palestinian, and given the contemporary fighting in Gaza the movie may benefit from increased attention once again. The Palestinian plight is receiving renewed attention in light of the Gaza bombings, but it’s worth remembering while watching this that we only get one side, Ermad’s view as a Palestinian. This is a perfect reflection of contemporary truncated documentary. It’s all personal vision, no context. That’s good for emotions but quite ineffective in educating viewers on the context which produced these circumstances in 2012. Or just the past few weeks.

VERDICT: Incredibly brave film with bold and innovative approach to storytelling. Troubling lack of context, though. Extra points for timeliness. As the death toll ticks above 500 we should be seizing opportunities like this one to learn more. Moderate recommendation.

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