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4.8 out of 5 stars51
4.8 out of 5 stars
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2013
Several years ago a Palestinian farmer decided to get hold of a video camera to capture key moments in his young son's life. He could have had little idea back then that this decision would result in some of the most powerful documentary footage ever seen and him walking down the red carpet in Hollywood with his wife and son.

Knowing that this film had been nominated for an Oscar in the documentary category (I watched it days before the ceremony) I had anticipated something of a masterpiece. It certainly lived up to my expectations and more. As another reviewer has already indicated - it is difficult to comment on some scenes without giving too much away. I do have a serious piece of advice for anyone planning to watch this film though. Try not to become too fond of its central characters.....

....but of course, it is impossible not to fall in love with the personalities involved. After all they are delightful and highly lovable people. They are ordinary men, women and children who simply want to farm their land and to live their lives safely and in peace but their world is turned upside down by the on-going expansion of the occupation. For anyone reading this review who feels that the last statement is politically charged....The British Government refers to the area in which the film's events take place as the Occupied West Bank and considers the settlements that displace Palestinians to be illegal. That is the official Foreign and Commonwealth Office position. So there is no controversy in me spelling out the facts.

I already knew something of the situation in the Occupied West Bank before I bought this film. I have not been there myself, but I have friends who have served as volunteer observers in the region. Their mere presence as witnesses can help to inhibit the brutality of the police and soldiers who seemingly act with impunity. Despite having heard eye witness accounts of the beatings, arrests and humiliation that is part of life for Palestinian men, women and children, there are some scenes in this film that genuinely shocked me. In fact I found myself wondering during one scene in particular whether the soldier holding the gun realised he was being filmed. Surely he would not have done what he did if he had known his actions were being recorded?

The film which is a joint Palestinian/Israeli collaboration tells three stories. The story of a family whose lives are captured through a series of "home movies"; the story of a village and its inhabitants and their struggle to retain (or regain) their land through "fly on the wall" type footage; the story of the Palestinian people in true documentary style, cataloguing their history and culture and the injustice they suffer. This film will go a long way to challenge many false assumptions that people have made about the situation. You do not see this version of events on the BBC.

The central theme is a simple one. The residents of the West Bank town of Bil'in do not accept the theft of their land or the destruction of their olive trees. They have maintained a dignified weekly protest. No bombings, no bullets, no armed resistance. This is straight out of the Martin Luther King book of non-violent protest. Their peaceful resistance is however met with force of the most violent kind. Barrages of tear gas grenade, spray from water canon of "skunk-water" are regularly sent in their direction. It makes for uncomfortable viewing.

There are some lighter moments. For instance the attempt by the villagers to take advantage of a law passed by Israel to make land theft even easier for settlers. Under this law, if a settler puts down a portacabin type structure on Palestinian land they effectively claim that land for themselves. The villagers try to disrupt the delivery of these cabins as they arrive on the back of low-loaders. But of course the settlers are accompanied by heavily armed soldiers. In one sequence, the villagers decide to play the settlers at their own game by placing their own temporary structure on land that had been taken from them in an attempt to claim it back. But of course, the occupying power has the machinery and weaponry to simply come in and remove it. To paraphrase Paul Weller, the laws are seemingly made by and for the Israelis.

One thing comes over very clear from this film though. No matter how much land Israel continues to take from the people of Bil'in, their spirit remains steadfast. There is no sense there that they are going to give up their dreams or their rights anytime soon.

Amidst the violence there are some Kafkaesque scenes. Palestinians can be banned and forcibly removed from land declared to be a "closed military zone". It would appear from the film that a solider can decide on a whim to declare any area he chooses to be a closed military zone. Again, I will not give away the storyline, save to say that one particular location in the film is probably the last place you would expect could be declared a closed military zone, but the absurdity of designating this place as such does not prevent the soldiers in question from having the chutzpah to use their absolute power to do so.

With the aid of the eponymous five broken cameras over the course of six years, Emad Burnat allows us to see what is really happening in the Holy Land and it is not pretty. Even though this film didn't take the award - it will inspire all who watch it. It certainly deserved its "best documentary nomination" and I suspect Emad Burnat and his Israeli co-director Guy Davidi only failed to scoop the Oscar on the night due to some incredible competition.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2013
This is a documentary filmed over a period of about 5 years and five cameras. A couple of which actually save the film maker's life. Almost immediately I forgot that the film was spoken in their native tongue with English subtitles as I was captured by the main characters. These main characters are ordinary people just trying like the rest of us to make a living. But unlike us have all their rights and land snatched cruelly away from them.
Parts of the film are are shocking and so very, very sad, especially when you have to remind yourself that this is not some Hollywood blockbuster imitating 'war' but everyday life to these people.
This film should be on the National Curriculum in schools to open the worlds eyes to life as it is in village in Palestine.
Watch it. It WILL change your point of view on life out there forever!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2013
I watched this heartbreaking film and became more and more ashamed to be British, our government (including the USA who are more culpable) know this is going on every day, Palestinian land being stolen from them to allow Jewish settlers to take over the area.

The laws of their own government (Israel) are ignored to allow them to continue with this obscene act and what are we in the West doing, absolutely nothing. What gives the Jewish people, the USA and Britain the right to stand by and allow this to happen, what world are we now living in and what rules are we all living by.

Is the taking of the land more important than what is right and wrong and descent, have we all had our minds changed to allow this obscenity to continue, what happens in the future when we realise this is not a permanent solution?

The problem will still be around when they have taken everything, no wonder the west is losing its influence in the world as these actions take place (including South America, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan etc).

I work with Palestinians and have trouble looking them in the eye, I feel I want to apologise for what is going on but is that enough. What do I need to do to prevent this happening as I fear the demonstrations taking place in Palestine will not prevent any of it.

I feel the solution is a political one but who is listening?
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2013
This is an astonishing film that might never have come into existence if someone had not willingly chosen to dig through the mountains of film that Emad created over the years. Of course it's one-sided, and a good thing, too, because it is precisely the side that we hardly get to see and that is usually drowned out by a slick and well-funded Zionist propaganda machine. Pretty hard to refute your own eyes, too. Thank you, Emad and Guy.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2013
An absolute must-watch for anyone interested in the Israel/Palestine situation. This documentary follows the lives of ordinary people in an ordinary Palestinian village and their 8-year non-violent resistance to having their land stolen to make way for an Israeli settlement. The documentary shows their olive trees being bulldozed (their only source of income), a fence and wall being built around the village (to 'protect' the settlers), night raids where the Israeli army arrest children, massive barrages of tear gas grenades being fired at non-violent protestors...
Watch this movie. Funny, poignant, graphic in places, it will affect you for days - it may even change your life.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2013
OK, where to begin? To be honest I really did not want to watch this as movies, documentaries and articles regarding Palestine/Israel are always the epitome of the darkest depression & the most frantic frustrations one will feel. However, after reading about the incident with Emad Burnat in the US and Michael Moore during the Oscars I bit my lip and watched it. All I can say is wow... this is footage captured by a Palestinian over the course of 5-8 years on the front line. It is raw and jagged and cuts to the heart deep into the core. The story is poignantly told with the birth of Emads son and the events that occur throughout his sons life.

The sheer resilience, heart, passion, determination, hope, courage, defiance, humanity, perseverance, will, strength & patience captured by Emad has to be witnessed to be believed. If a single picture paints a 1000 words, imagine a compilation of moving pictures spread throughout the years. Always protesting non-nonviolently against the illegal land seizures, the constructions of buildings, the barriers erected and the settlers swarming in to occupy stolen land is always met with unbridled violence by the soldiers with extreme prejudice regardless of age or sex.

You will see scenes that will make leave you in a suspension of disbelief the manner in which hostilities are always escalated by the soldiers when approached by villagers unarmed who are merely protesting and begging to be treated like human beings. Always met with physical violence, tear gas, stun grenades & bullets. Shot after shot, year after year shows the same reaction by the soldiers to unarmed and peaceful demonstrations. The worst one was when a group of children approached demonstrating for peace to be met with a rain of tear gas and bullets. The most harrowing moment for me personally was when they arrested a Palestinian and unaware they are being filmed from a distance, a soldier aims his weapon at his leg whilst in custody and being held without resisting is point blank shot in the leg. You really need to pause and come back to this as the injustice is just too much to bear - the Israeli courts themselves agree the barrier is illegal, the land seizure is illegal, the settlements are illegal and authorize the removal of the barrier but nothing happens.

After watching this it is crystal clear there is no grey areas and it really is a case of black and white, the Israelis are without doubt the aggressors and inciters of violence whereas the Palestinians are just being systematically wiped out. Ironic, how history is repeating itself, which leads me to conclude, it will repeat itself again against the aggressor.

My only complaint there is no address or some forms of contact to send support - in the form of cameras to Emad to continue his peaceful struggle against what is clearly a David & Goliath battle for the ages. As one review states which sums it up perfectly:

"Pretty hard to refute your own eyes..."
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2013
The five stars are for the Palestinian with the cameras which both protects and exposes him. His continual 'targetting' literally and metaphorically shows more than anything the Israeli Defence Forces' guilt. If you're lawful why wouldn't you want to be filmed? So he deserves more plaudits than 5 stars on Amazon simply for him being where he is and doing what he does. The primary power of this film is from putting the viewer on the other side of lethal force. It is a disturbing experience. Occasionally you realise he's standing within or next the Israeli soldiers who could turn on him as they attack his village friends. The courage and bravery shown are humbling and begs many questions about what it means to be a human being in unimaginable circumstances.

There are numerous war crimes documented against individuals aside from the constant evidence of mass punishment. An unintentional sub-text on the film are the depiction of Palestinians relying on international observers who are constantly present (not least in the editing process of the film) and on Israelis willing to put themselves quite literally in the firing line. One of the most telling lines was someone shouting 'You've hit an Israeli', wounded Palestinians are par for the course here, no one was shouting about them. It's often these moments that would have passed the cameraman by that show how deeply traumatised the whole community are. Watching his young son imbibe this as his culture is torturous.

The editing and distribution of the film without which this footage wouldn't be available is a heroic act. Although at times it looks like differing scenes have been spliced together for effect and others re-ordered which undermines, to a degree, the integrity of the film. There is enough drama without needing to edit it in. There are one or two difficult scenes where the narrative given doesn't unambiguously describe what is seen - regarding the Israelis dressed as Palestinians for example. Occasionally dialogue seems forced or rehearsed - one scene with his son seemed problematic - and it only verbalises what is already powerfully implicit in the idea of each camera roughly lasting a year of his young son's life.

Yet these are small quibbles about the manipulation of footage only because it really doesn't need a heavy didactic hand. The horror of what is being done to communities of Palestinians and indeed Israeli soldiers forced to harden their hearts to horrific violence day in and day out is laid bare. The remarkable nature of the determination of this man is the determination of the Palestinians who remain in Palestine as the body on which Israel's illegal activities are carried out. The power of the film is such that when towards the end of it when a victory of sorts is won you feel the hollowness of it against the cost in lives and begin to understand why the death defying marches against Israel's illegal occupation and ongoing theft of land are really celebrations of life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2013
One of the best films I've ever seen.
I recommend everyone see this film, it really is incredible.
Free Palestine!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2013
This film doesn't seem to be a documentary, yet is the touching reality of the indigenous people of a land fighting for freedom and resisting occupation. Inspiring and moving. Leaves you feeling you got something to do for Palestine.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2013
This should have won an Oscar. It is a true and extremely moving account of the dreadful conditions Palestinians have to endure while their country is illegally occupied by Israel. It tells the story of how he has filmed his young son growing up amid the misery of regular Israeli military raids and the breaking up of peaceful protests with live bullets. I urge anyone to see it to better understand the conflict in the Middle East.
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