This year we are lucky enough to have a Best Documentary Oscar field where most of the nominees are widely available to the public. Three of the five films in the field are available on Netflix Instant, and there haven’t been any bad films in the field from what I have seen so far. One of those documentaries is 5 Broken Cameras. This documentary tells a fascinating and important story with behind the scenes developments during the filmmaking process that are just as interesting. Unfortunately, the film overstays its welcome before it’s all over revealing that this story could have been even more effective as a short.
5 Broken Cameras follows a Palestinian named Emad Burnat from a small farming community. Through five cameras (he takes on another each time the current one is damaged) he recounts the Israeli encroachment on the land as the small farming community takes on a peaceful resistance. The film shows an under-told story to the western world, in which Israel is not always the good egg it is made out to be. Emad Burnat acts as a co-director. The surprising thing about the production of this film though is that the other co-director is an Israeli, Guy Davidi.
While this documentary definitely shows the power of film (as it shows people from two conflicting nations working together to create something), I think the behind the scenes story of this film is carrying it a lot further than the actual material on display in the film does. While the film is definitely engaging and brings awareness to a situation I doubt the vast majority of the western world had any idea about, the film just gets way to repetitive. There are just way too many protest marches, way too many instances of Israeli soldiers abusing Palestinians and way too many stories about how cameras got destroyed for this film to rise above your typical documentary. This film is definitely in need of some major editing, and really would have been more effective if it were thirty minutes shorter.
That being said this is still a film that needs to be seen. It is such an interesting tale in a world that viewers of this film would know very little about. The filmmakers do a very effective job in displaying their vision and their case. I think that this is a film that even less open minded people (in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) will still be able to find some value in, and that is the testament of some great filmmaking.