NEW YORK — Before Guy Davidi co-directed and produced 5 Broken Cameras, he was involved in Indymedia and an experienced filmmaker. He was also associated with Anarchists Against the Wall, Israeli anti-occupation activists. This is how he came to know the West Bank village of Bil’in, home of the film’s co-director, Emad Burnat.
“I lived in the village for two months in 2005,” he recalled, during a conversation that took place at a coffee shop in New York, where he was promoting the film ahead of the Oscars. “That was an intense time, with the [Palestinian Legislative Council] election. That was also the time of the night raids and arrests. The struggle was just beginning. I used to go out and film the soldiers, or try to stop them. And that was when I started to get to know Emad, because he used to go out and film when I did.”
Over the next five years, Burnat shot 700 hours of footage. Every Friday afternoon, week after week, through the present day, the villagers have been holding demonstrations against Israel’s wall, which severed them from their agricultural land. Burnat filmed the tear gas, the bullets, the arrests, the beatings — and the death of his cousin, Bassem Abu-Rahmeh (“Phil”), who died when an Israeli soldier shot a tear gas canister directly at his chest.
With another 300 hours of footage from other sources, Davidi and Burnat scripted and edited the film so that the narrative focuses on the 2005 birth of Burnat’s son Gibreel, who grew up against the background of the village’s struggle and all the attendant violence; and on the eponymous five cameras, broken successively by tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and similar violent incidents. The result is a deeply moving, thought-provoking documentary that won critical acclaim and a major award at the Sundance Festival. Then came the Oscar nomination, in the category of best feature documentary.