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Former Sundance documentary aims to prompt change in the West Bank

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SALT LAKE CITY — A documentary that premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival has been nominated for an Academy Award. It's a story that begins with one man's desire to document what is happening in his West Bank village.

Emad Burnat bought a camera to capture Israeli soldiers taking over his family's farmland on the West Bank and to remember his little boy growing up. Through his lens, we watch the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as if we are there.

The title, "5 Broken Cameras," comes from his experience of having cameras destroyed during demonstrations. Israeli activist and friend Guy Davidi stepped in to help.

The documentary premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival to standing ovations. The filmmakers talked of their experiences.

"The soldier shot direct to my face," said Burnat. "I was filming like this and he shot direct to my face, so the bullet got inside the lens and another bullet hit the camera, so it saved my life."

Davidi remembered Burnat as the man with the camera.

"I met Emad, everybody knew Emad, because he was the only cameraman of the village," he said.

But the documentary about living under occupation keeps rising: "5 Broken Cameras" is now nominated for an Oscar.

I hope for them to keep these stories in their minds.

–Emad Burnat, filmmaker

Iyad Burnat, Emad's brother, is touring America with the film. Wednesday, it had two screenings at the University of Utah. Iyad says awards and festivals were never the goal.

"He didn't think he would make a movie or be a filmmaker, he was just taking the photos to show the people and to put it on YouTube," he said.

One scene shows the filmmaker's brother being arrested and their elderly parents pleading with the soldiers.

"I was one of these people," said Iyad. "I've been arrested many times."

The filmmakers believe with international exposure, their story will bring change.

"I hope for them to keep these stories in their minds," said Emad.

Davidi added, "This film is about healing. What Emad I think is doing, he's healing himself and he's healing the people around him."

"We want to see people living together in equality, democratic state, one state that everybody can live in with freedom and equality and peace," said Iyad.

An Israeli judge did rule in favor of the villagers of Bil'in and their land, but it was too late. Much had already been bulldozed. But the documentary — made from 700 hours of film shot over seven years — is likely to be compelling enough to win the Academy Award.


Carole Mikita


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