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Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers #39: Guy Davidi and Emad Burnat, ‘5 Broken Cameras’

Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers #39: Guy Davidi and Emad Burnat, '5 Broken Cameras'

The directors of “5 Broken Cameras,” Emad Burnat (the Palestinian villager who used his camera to film the events unfolding in his life) and Guy Davidi (an Israeli filmmaker and cinema teacher) call theirs a “very unique partnership.” Burnat has worked as a freelance journalist for Al-Jazeera and has contributed to documentaries “Bil’in My Love,” “Palestine Kids,” “Open Close,” and “Interrupted Streams.”

Davidi started making short films through a high school cinema course when he was 16. For him, it was “a safe home in a very complex and often oppressive and violent environment.” He recalls regular school tours to visit army corps, where they should systematically temp students to join their particular unit when they began their military service. “I immediately felt dizzy and was revolted by the idealization of violence,” Says Davidi, adding; “At the end of that tour, there was a spectacularly ridiculous screening in the unit’s cinema hall. And on the screen, there was a propaganda film of the army corps. I distinctly remember having tears in my eyes as I had an important understanding that I should shoot truthful and sincere films and not shoot people.” His short films include “Working Progress,” “Keywords,” and “Women Defying Barriers.” “Interrupted Streams,” his first feature, premiered at the Jerusalem International Film Festival in 2010.

What’s it about: The struggle of villagers for their lands affects the personal life of a local cameraman.

Says director Davidi: “I first met Emad in 2005 when I came to Bil’in to make my first film and support the villagers in their struggle against the separation barrier. At the time I was doing a film on another issue. Then, In 2009, Emad approached me to direct a film on Bil’in’s struggle. I was skeptical; I knew Emad had a great eye as a cameraman even though he wasn’t trained. But I wasn’t sure if we could make another film on a subject that had already been told many times by other filmmakers.

“I remember looking at the footage for the first time. There was an old man blocking the jeeps that I didn’t recognize. So, I inquired to Emad – Who is it? What is he doing? Emad told me that the man was his father, and he his trying to prevent the army from arresting his brother. That was the moment I was convinced we could tell this story from a very personal perspective of Emad as a cameraman and as a family man. From that point, all of Emad’s homemade footage became relevant for a film that would be based both on his own personal narrative and on the chronology of Bil’ins resistance.

“When we started this film I knew we would be criticized for doing it together. Emad would be asked why he choose to make it with an Israeli, and me with a Palestinian. The actual differences were something we couldn’t avoid. We had different privileges and different complications; we had to learn to use them in a constructive way, though they have a tendency to complicate things. We have different cultural backgrounds, life experiences and accessibility to the world. There are different expectations of us because of our identities.


I hope that the people that come to see the film will do it with open hearts and minimum pre-judgments. I think when watching a film that deals with such a painful controversy, people tend to shut down. Most people divide the world into right and wrong, good and bad, Palestinians and Israelis. They immediately take a side and that corresponds to their identities, life experience, ideology… but whatever reason it is these loyalties are many times at the expense of experiencing the world emotionally and openly, while understanding the true impact of actions. The reality is wonderfully complex and this is beautiful. I am frustrated when people fight so much to narrow it down and put the film into a box and choose to look at it with one or two filters.


Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.

Keep checking here every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.

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