From A Farm In Palestine To The Red Carpet In Tinseltown – This Is Emad Burnat’s Journey

Who would’ve expected that a home video intended for a son capturing everyday struggle of people from the small village of Bil’in will be nominated as the best documentary at the Academy Awards in 2013. Where Emad Burnat comes from, a fight for survival is every day business. Bil’in is situated in the central of West Bank, approximately 12 kilometers west of the city of Ramallah.

Emad started shooting before 2005 and has increased filming activities especially after the aggressiveness of Jewish settlement and military actions on the Palestinians land. Israelis were occupying half of the Palestinian land, cutting through agricultural land and at some point, have begun bulldozing the olive trees around the region. Palestinians were resisting this movement and called in the peaceful and non-violent protest that were held weekly. This sparked international media attention from Israeli’s left wing activists and foreign nationals.

5 Broken Cameras filmed the childhood of Emad’s fourth child, Gibreel and the hardship of life of the Palestinians in Bil’in. The five cameras represent the number of cameras that have been destroyed during filming. The cameras are damaged either by tear gas canister, fist fights or bullet shots from the Israeli army, which probably saved Emad’s life.


This film is co-directed by an Israeli national Guy Davidi. Davidi has joined the protest in Bil’in together with the Palestinian against the Jewish settlements. Emad saw Davidi as he was documenting, and decided to contact him after 5 years of filming to make this documentary into a film project. It happened because Emad knew Davidi was a friend, no political intentions were involved.


This film has been nominated for the 2013 Academy Awards as the best documentary. Among other awards, the film won 2013 International Emmy Award, Sundance Directing Award 2012, One World Best Director at Film Festival 2012 in Prague and IDFA Audience Award and Special Jury Awards 2011.

Emad and his family were invited to the awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Luck was not with them as they were detained in the LAX airport for 40 minutes. The immigration was questioning them as it seemed unlikely to the security that some Palestinians were invited to the US and to the Oscars no less. Michael Moore, the documentary filmmaker had to intervene after Emad texted him and explained the whole affair.  


The Guardian in 2012 reviewed the movie and quoted “It presents with overwhelming power a case of injustice on a massive scale, and gives us a direct experience of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of oppression and dispossession, administered by the unyielding, stony-faced representatives of those convinced of their own righteousness.” The New York Times said, “5 Broken Cameras” provides a grim reminder — just in case you needed one — of the bitter intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The film has received ratings of 8 out of 10 from IMDb and 7.7 out of 10 from Rotten Tomatoes.

The biggest accomplishment that benefits the people of Bil’in was having the wall pushed back after five years when the decision was made by the Israeli court. Still cutting through the occupied land, this small victory proved that peaceful protest can make a significant impact.

Where is Emad now?
In March 2016, he visited Australia and New Zealand attending interviews, lectures, and screenings. An organization in New Zealand, Kia Ora Gaza has wired in $6,000 to Emad Burnat for a new camera. Unfortunately, Emad among 4 other people was detained by Israeli forces during the weekly protests in Bil’in in July 2016. There were no other updates about his situation at the present.

This article is written by Nur Zalikha Razali

Written by Mvslim

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