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In 2007, Israel’s High Court ruled that the separation barrier built on Bil’in lands was illegal and ordered it rerouted, cheering activists. The ruling was finally implemented in 2011, but the protests continue.
Humble villagers in black-and-white chequered Palestinian scarves and smartly dressed city dwellers shared the same visceral reaction to scenes in the film that are much chronicled but seldom appear in feature-length film.
A shot of olive trees reduced to glowing embers after being torched by Jewish settlers coaxes an audible gasp from viewers.
“Oh God!” said one man.
But as Burnat’s camera captures defiant chants in the protagonists’ village accent, or rocks being hurled at fleeing Israeli jeeps, ecstatic applause filled the hall.
The film was co-directed by an Israeli activist and filmmaker, Guy Davidi. This close association has led some people to classify 5 Broken Cameras as an Israeli movie and it was rejected by a Morocco film festival for this reason.
However, Burnat said it had been shown in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries and denied that the joint production reflected any meaningful “normalisation” of relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“(Davidi) is a solidarity activist who came to the village to show his support. He was shown our material and agreed to help. This doesn’t represent Israeli-Palestinian collaboration,” Burnat said.
But the film’s action shows many examples of cooperation between Israeli solidarity activists and locals.
An Israeli photographer gives Burnat one of his five cameras, which are progressively shot or crushed in protests over the years, giving the film its name, and Israeli solidarity activists are shown helping to plan protests in Hebrew.
“Working jointly with an Israeli doesn’t diminish this work, it enhances it,” Palestinian student Amira Daood told Reuters.
“They’re not all against us. Some are opposed to what Israel is doing and the movie demonstrates that,” she said.