5 Broken Cameras (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 6, 2013 by  

Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi have created a compelling, thought-provoking film that is important for people to see.  “5 Broken Cameras” is highly recommended!

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DVD TITLE: 5 Broken Cameras


DURATION: 90 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION:4:3 and 16:9, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber Inc.


RELEASE DATE: January 15, 2013

Directed by Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

Produced by Emad Burnat, Christine Camdessus, Guy Davidi, Serge Gordey

Music by Le Trio Joubran

Cinematography by Emad Burnat

Edited by Guy Davidi, Veronique Lagoarde-Segot


Emad Burnat – Himself, Narrator

Soraya Burnat

Mohammed Burnat

Yasin Burnat

Taky-Adin Burnat

Gibreel Burnat

Muhammad Burnat

Bassem Abu-Rhama

Adeeb Abu-Rhama

Ashraf Abu-Rahma

Intisar Burnat

Eyad Burnat

Riyad Burnat

Khaled Burnat

Jafar Burnat

Yisrael Puterman

An extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism, 5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, the footage was later turned into a galvanizing cinematic experience by co-directors Guy Davidi and Burnat. Structured around the violent destruction of a succession of Burnat’s video cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. ”I feel like the camera protects me,” he says, ”but it’s an illusion.”

The West Bank is a landlocked territory in which Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Israelis in Israeli settlements are currently living.

For hundreds of years, the West Bank was under Ottoman rule as part of the provinces of Syria but 1920, the Allied powers (which consisted off France, UK and the USA) allocated the area to the British Mandate of Palestine.

And since then, Arab and Israeli’s have engaged in war from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (the second war which was in response to the UN Partition Plan), The Six-Day War of 1967 (the third Arab-Israeli War) as the countries fought for control of land which included the Gaza Strip, West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.  And would lead to the First Intifada (a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories from 1987-1993).

With the Israeli West Bank Barrier (a 26 ft. wall) being created, Israel argues that the barrier is necessary to protect their citizens form Palestinian terrorism, Palestinians argue that Israel is illegally attempting to annex Palestinian land under the guise of security and are violating international law.  And for Palestinians who live nearby, they are being prevented to travel freely within the West Bank and have access to Israel.

Conflict would escalate in the Second Intifada and the Oslo War between 200o-2005, where thousands of people would be killed.

While Palestinians argued that that the Israel government was being stolen from them, the truth is that for us in America, while fighting in the Middle East was show on the news, to this day, many Americans are unsure why the people are fighting.  And with both sides blaming each other for hostilities and war and an unsettling peace in the area still permeating through the region, for one man named Emad Burnat, he wanted to record on camera about what is happening in his country, his village and his people.

To back things up with factual evidence and document of how his home in Bil’in, a West Bank village is being threatened by Israeli settlements.  The West Bank Barrier would be constructed through their agricultural land and in response, villagers and also Israeli and international activists would partake in non-violent demonstrations.  As evidence seen from Emad’s camera, the soldiers and police did not react the same way.

An family man who bought his first camera in 2005, that year was bitter sweet as he saw the war destroy parts of his village, land being stolen and people in the village being affected by the Israeli who began building a wall in their area, but moving closer and closer and taking Palestinian land.   At the same time, despite the sadness in his village, his fourth son Gibreel was born.

While Emad filmed his friends in nonviolent demonstrations against armed Israeli soldiers, Emad would film his children growing up, especially his young son Gibreel but also try to film and document the illegal seizure of land and but also the unfortunate treatment and murders of young and old in villages on the West Bank.

In the process of filming, Emad was able to capture what transpired in the area in five years he has been filming.  With soldiers destroying his cameras and the camera saving his life from death, through this film, we see how each of the five cameras were broken or destroyed but also how people were treated by Israeli soldiers and police but also who, among his friends and family, who survives and who will lose their lives.

A powerful, important and compelling film by co-directors Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat and by Israeli filmmaker/editor Guy Davidi, watch the evolution of life in Bil’in but also death.


“5 Broken Cameras” is presented in 4:3 and 16:9.  It’s important for people to know that the film was shot in various budget HD camcorders that Emad Burnat first bought himself in 2005 and then would gain access to more used cameras that were given to him by friends after each camera was destroyed, shot at.  With that being said, thanks to the funding by the Greenhouse Development Project (a Mediterranean development project initiated by an Israeli foundation and sponsored by Europeans), the film would receive funding but also from French, Dutch, American, Canadian, Asian countries and Israeli television including the New Israel Fund.


“5 Broken Cameras” comes with the following special features:

  • Keywords: A Short Film by Guy Davidi – (23:41) A film based on Guy Davidi’s articles.
  • Interview with Emad Burnat – (8:02) Emad discusses why he filmed, why he wanted his film to be a movie and how he met and collaborated with Guy Davidi.
  • Interview with Guy Davidi – (15:32) Guy Davidi talks about creating stories and working with Emad.
  • Trailer – (1:56) The theatrical trailer for “5 Broken Cameras”.
  • About Greenhouse – (9:32) A featurette about Greenhouse, an international documentary film workshop for people in the Mediterranean.

“5 Broken Cameras” is an important film and a risky form of activism that needs to be done, in order for people to see what is going on in other countries.

The problem is that many people do not survive the ordeal, arrested by governments and sometimes these activists are killed because they are seen as problematic to these other countries.

While I am not an erudite to the problems and the many years of war, tragic stories or problems that take place within the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, “5 Broken Cameras” is a film that gives us a visual and an understanding that the rights of these villagers in Bil’in are being affected by the illegal seizure of their land.

But what is most profound is the direction that Burnat and Davidi’s film captures.  It captures family and how these villagers are like family to each other.  They are not rich, they survive on the land thanks to the olive trees.  Most of the time that these male villagers are planning are non-violent demonstrations.  We see it for our own eyes, Israeli soldiers or even the police shooting at people holding demonstrations.  We see tear gas raining in on not just Palestinians but also Israeli and foreign activists.

When Emad Burnat began shooting these videos that were taking place in his county, his footage was used by activists and put on YouTube to create awareness of what was happening in the area.  But he also shot footage of his family especially his son Gibreel.  Being born as a baby, speaking his first words but then seeing this young boy witness as he grows up in his young life, the acts against the soldiers and even being caught within the tear gas or smoke grenades that land around the protestors.  And eventually seeing death to a person he knew, a passionate man who tried to protect his lands with words, not violence but yet was killed.  We see the man, who is featured in the film quite a bit, being struck and killed instantly and seeing how everyone in the village mourns for the young man’s death.

But the young Gibreel shows us a boy born pure, innocent but yet seeing for his eyes of how his father and their friends but also young children are treated by the soldiers.  Yes, even the young children group together to go in front of soldiers chanting how they want piece.  Unfortunately, this leads to more problems as soldiers/police comb through neighborhoods at night, arresting children from their parent’s home.

To make matters worse, people being arrested for no apparent reason.  Emad is filming with his camera, yet serves jail time for false reasons.  Soldiers claiming he was shot with rocks.

We see a man being detained, blindfolded and Emad capturing on video, soldiers smiling and then shooting the man in the leg for no reason.

This is the injustice we see in Burnat’s film.  And before I go on, it’s important to say that with any war, there are crimes committed on both sides.  With my review, my intention is not to show that one side is better or one side is worst.  But “5 Broken Cameras” is a compelling first-hand account of what is captured on camera by a normal family man.  This is not faking anything, he just records what he sees and Israeli filmmaker, Guy Davidi helped compile this footage to show that Emad and the villagers were part of a movement that was necessary for people to see.

Living in America, we have our own problems may it be in our personal lives, our local area, the whole nation that we tend to gloss over situations that are happening in other countries.  May it be the terrible living conditions in one country, disease or HIV afflicting families and a large village in another, or even atrocities that continue to happen today but we are only familiar with what is shown on the news for 2-3 minutes.

I personally never knew about these non-violent movements of villagers trying to protect their land.  We know that people around the region have been fighting on this land for a very long time and many people throughout the various wars in the region have been killed.

But I really didn’t know the soldier’s tactics of trying to stop these villagers.  From shooting at them, aiming their smoke grenades at them, burning their olive trees (a main source of their food), arresting their children at night.  Yes, I’ms ure these soldiers did not like these protests but it’s terrible to see this happen for real.  This is not a film about dramatization, this is a film capturing real-life events that Emad and his family have seen during the course of five years of turmoil.

This is not about the entire conflict of a region but just a part of it.  But what Emad is able to capture on camera for those five years is surprising, heartbreaking but also opens your eyes on what these villagers must live through.

As for the DVD, picture and audio quality is good for the most part.  The DVD also comes with Guy Davidi’s “Keywords: A Short Film” plus Kino Lorber’s special features with Ewad Burnat and Guy Davidi.  Also, a short featurette on what Greenhouse is and the theatrical trailer for “5 Broken Cameras”.

I wish there were easy answers for people to live in peace but unfortunately war, the building of walls, illegal situations, terrorism and a few countries involved in the fray, along with these problems in addition to political ambition will continue to prevent any peace and its most unfortunate.

You see these children born so happy but yet they live where they hear grenades exploding, seeing their parents take part in active protests to protect their land and seeing love ones die.  And this is not just with children, we see elderly also fight and try to protect their children.

Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi have created a compelling, thought-provoking film that is important for people to see.  “5 Broken Cameras” is highly recommended!


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