5 Broken Cameras – Review

Directors: Emad Bernad and Guy Davidi

Emad Bernad, a Palestinian living in the border town of Bil’in, gets his first camcorder in 2005 to capture the birth of his son Gabrieel. Soon, however, he’s filming Israel’s ‘security fence’ as it begins to take shape to protect a newly-built Jewish settlement. It comes as no surprise that one of Gabrieel’s first words is “wall”.

The documentary – shown as part of Sheffield's DocFest – is a startling mix of the banal and brutal: in one scene, Bernad’s wife Soraya hangs out the washing on the roof of their home as gunfire crackles nearby.

As the wall gets bigger, the people of Bil’in protest harder. Each demonstration is met with tear-gas and bullets from the Israeli army. Bernad’s first camera is smashed by soldiers, and with depressing regularity his cameras become casualties of the conflict. His third camera saves his life when it takes an Israeli bullet.

When the Palestinians attempt to occupy the building site, their makeshift huts are simply winched away by an Israeli crane; when they burn the olive trees that give them food and a livelihood, the Israeli army bulldoze the lot.

Bernad is imprisoned for his actions and then suffers a heart attack whilst filming another protest soon after he is released. Whilst he shows little emotion the few times the camera is turned on him, the footage he captures speaks volumes. Alarmingly, Children are arrested by soldiers in the dead of night for taking part in protests, highlighting the heavy-handed paranoia of the Israeli army.

In the most sickening scene, Bernad’s friend Bassad is shot and killed while protesting. It’s hard to pass judgement on the Israeli families as they move into the settlement towards the end of the documentary, but Bassad’s pointless death casts a shadow over their humdrum hustle and bustle.

It would be wrong to rate this documentary. Bernad has simply turned his lens on everyday life in Palestine, and I’d urge everyone to take a look.

James Archer


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