Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat is remarkable not just because his debut film ‘5 Broken Cameras’ is one of the few to have been received to critical acclaim in England and the US, but also because Emad himself started life as a humble farmer and has no formal training in videography.
The title of Emad’s debut film, ‘5 Broken Cameras‘ somewhat gives away what it is about. The plot documents his personal journey as a filmmaker after he buys his first camera on the birth of his fourth son, Jibril, in 2005. Emad quickly becomes the village chronicler in his small hometown of Bil’in, and the film skillfully weaves the personal struggles of Emad and his neighbors with the childhood of his small son, showing events through the fresh, naive eyes of a child.
‘I decided to make film from my point of view because I live here and make this from my feeling and living life and thought that I have strong story to tell, it’s not like directors who come to make films for money or to be famous. I want to show the audience my experience and how I live, how my family and my village live and feel. The purpose to make the film is to reach audiences in the world to make them understand.’
Since 2005, Emad has had his camera broken five separate times, and the film also tells the story of how each of his cameras came to be broken – some moving, some terrifying and some humorous.
‘This film …is a visual essay in autobiography and, as such, a modest, rigorous and moving work of art.’ (New York Times)
But, as I mentioned earlier, what makes this film (and Emad himself) so remarkable is that he has absolutely no training as a filmmaker. The footage used in the film was all shot by himself over a six-year period on his 5 cameras, although he was assisted in the editing and compiling by director Guy Davidi.
The result is a film that is incredibly raw and personal, and thoroughly human. It is perhaps the simple reality of it that has spoken so deeply to audiences around the world, and also why Emad Burnat gets our vote as our Film Innovator of the Week.
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