Oscar-nominated Palestinian filmmaker insists his movie is not Israeli

Emad Burnat is annoyed that his documentary, which is relentlessly critical of Israel, is being touted as an Israeli, not a Palestinian production

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Emad Burnat and one of his sons in the movie poster for '5 Broken Cameras' (Courtesy '5 Broken Cameras')
Emad Burnat and one of his sons in the movie poster for '5 Broken Cameras' (Courtesy '5 Broken Cameras')

With an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary for their film, “5 Broken Cameras,” filmmakers Emad Burnat, a Palestinian, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli, have been making the rounds for the last few weeks and months, drumming up interest.

But when the film began getting press for its Oscar nomination as one of two Israeli films in the documentary category, Burnat got annoyed.

“The whole thing is a mess, and the provocation is coming from the Israeli media,” Burnat told the Times of Israel. “The film was made by me, I filmed it for years, and I produced it. It’s not an Israeli film, it was my idea, all the images are personal, about my family, and I asked Guy to help during the last year of making it.”

Burnat said he isn’t angry at Davidi, an Israeli documentary filmmaker and activist who spent years in Burnat’s village of Bil’in, near Ramallah, where the villagers were engaged in an ongoing protest against the Jewish settlements being built nearby, on disputed land, and especially against the construction of the security barrier.

The film, largely a personal record of the villagers’ years of confrontations with Israeli soldiers which is bitterly and relentlessly critical of Israel, was financed in part with Israeli government funds, as was Israel’s second best documentary nominee, “The Gatekeepers.”

“We’re fine, the two of us,” said Burnat. “I have no problem with Guy. It was work between two people, two friends, and I didn’t look at him as Israeli or German or I don’t know what. Our goal was to change the situation, not to create provocations.”

Davidi recently told the Times of Israel that he was the one who convinced Burnat to use the footage he’d been taking for years and make it into a film.

Nevertheless, when the film was sent to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it was categorized as an Israeli documentary, even though documentaries are not a category based on nationality, which is why there are two documentaries from the region this year, “The Gatekeepers” and “5 Broken Cameras.”

“We never gave it in as an Israeli or Palestinian film,” said Burnat. “But they know who gave it in, they know that it’s a Palestinian story and my personal story. Everyone knows.”

In the meantime, said Burnat, he’s also speaking to the press, but primarily the Arab press worldwide, as his English is not as fluent as Davidi’s.

“It’s important that papers interview both of us, to bring forward both of our stories,” he said. “I did this with Guy because I wanted it to be screened in Israel, that was part of my goal. The Israeli press just talks about it as Israeli, and then distances themselves from the heart of the story.”

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