OSCARS: Nominated Docs Traverse Challenging Territory
OSCARS: Hammond’s Down-To-The-Wire Predictions For 2013 Winners & Losers
Ari Karpel and David Mermelstein are AwardsLine contributors
From the homemade, unpolished qualities of 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers to the journalism of How To Survive A Plague and the investigations of The Invisible War and Searching For Sugar Man, this year’s documentary feature nominees traverse challenging and rewarding territory. Here’s a look at the films from which voters must choose.
The homemade quality that permeates 5 Broken Cameras is its greatest strength. For what this plainspoken documentary lacks in polish, it makes up for in heartfelt emotion. The film centers on the life of its filmmaker, Emad Burnat, a Palestinian resident of Bil’in, a village in the occupied West Bank near the Israeli border. It opens with the birth of Burnat’s son Gibreel in 2005. Then, paralleling the first few years of Gibreel’s life, the film charts the hardships endured by the village as it copes with the erection of a barrier, built by Israel, that separates Bil’in from its olives groves.
“I just started to film and document my people’s nonviolent struggles in the village in 2005”, Burnat says, speaking recently by phone from Bil’in. “I decided to take part with my camera. I used it for many purposes. I was the only one in my village with a camera. I used it to protect myself and to spread the news to TV. I wanted to make this not like any other documentary. I was filming for more than five years, and then I decided to start the editing”.
Soon the nonviolent protests in Bil’in attracted sympathetic outsiders, including Israeli peace activists, one of whom, Guy Davidi, was also a filmmaker. Over time, Burnat and Davidi got to know and trust each other, resulting in a collaboration that produced this film.
“Of course, I wanted to say something political”, Davidi explains, speaking by phone from Tel Aviv. “But my real message was an emotional journey. In order to change opinions, you have to go through an emotional experience. You may do it through art. If you’re open emotionally to experiences, then you’re shocked and change your ideas. I’m looking to build motivation for change. There are a lot of ideas in the film. And you see how the Israeli side is reacting in a violent, aggressive way to this movement. You see how the government is treating a modest, friendly movement. And yet those Palestinians who are protesting are criticized by other elements in Palestinian society. Both of us, Emad and me, took big risks to do this film”.
Explaining his motivations not just to make this film, but also to do so by working with an Israeli, Burnat says: “People are suffering. Children are growing up here in a very bad situation, not a normal situation. We are the only people in the world who live under an occupation. I want my children to grow up in my home as others do in the world. I want them to have freedom and justice”.