‘5 Broken Cameras’ is a documentary straight from the horse’s mouth. Director Emad Burnat lives in the Palestinian village of Bil’in. After the birth of his son Gibreel, he begins to film the day to day events in his village. Throughout the film, Emad gets through 5 cameras, each ending up destroyed in conflicts with Israeli soldiers. Nevertheless he manages to document the many injustices that he encounters.
Amongst these, the biggest injustice of all is that as little Gibreel grows, so does his contempt and anger. At the tender age of five he has already learnt to hate. He witnesses things that no child should witness, in an environment that can only breed another generation of hatred.
It is important to note that this is not a film that provides a balanced argument, discussing both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict in a measured tone… and nor does it claim to be. ‘5 Broken Cameras’ shows the daily life and struggles of a Palestinian man, through his own eyes and in his own words. It’s biased, it’s blunt, and it voices uncomplicated views.
Because of this, it makes me consider how easy it is for us to comment on the ‘wider issue’ and on the politics of the whole situation from our living rooms. After all, for Emad and little Gibreel, and all the other Palestinians, it really is that uncomplicated. For them, injustice and unfairness are not complex political debates, they are burnt olive trees, stolen land, and bullet wounds. Everyday.
It makes me wonder how different the film would be from an Israeli perspective. How different might the world be, as a whole, if in every situation of conflict we could see through the eyes of our opponent?
‘5 Broken Cameras’ humanises this age-old conflict, through the views of a grown man with a life’s-worth of experience, and a child who can do no more than take the world around him at face value. It provides a fresh, rare, emotionally engaging, insight into an issue generally only seen through distant news reports. It’s predominantly for this reason that I highly recommend it.
Like anybody who starts their own creative venture, there are times when I doubt the relevance of my work. Some days I look at No Borders Magazine and think ’What am I doing this for? What is its purpose?’
And yet, I left ’Call Me Kuchu’ feeling more assured than ever that my purpose, and my responsibly, as the editor of a publication is to help spread the word about issues that really matter. Achieving equal human rights for gay people in Uganda, matters. The documentary follows a ’Kuchu’ (gay) group in Uganda as they fight for exactly this.
As they speak out against the rampant homophobia in Uganda, fuelled by American religious fundamentalists and their own media’s anti-gay propaganda, we see the true implications on their everyday lives. Shunned by their families and friends, those brave enough to ‘come out’ live in constant fear of violent attacks.
The group is headed by David Kato, a kind and determined man, who was tragically killed last year in a savage homophobic attack. His life and death are both heavily featured and he is very much the protagonist, both within the film and with regards to the real life issue.
His death catapulted the Ugandan gay rights issue into the international spotlight, but you can’t help but wonder why it had to come to that.
Despite the portrayal of daily struggles, there are beautiful, joyful moments that show this marginalised community as strong, defiant and optimistic for a better future. The subjects of the documentary are incredibly open about their emotions and background stories. By the end you feel as if you know them personally.
It’s a well-rounded and extremely moving contribution by Dirctors, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, who compile the film with excellent balance, compassion and criticism. But, first and foremostly,’Call Me Kuchu’ leaves the audience with a powerful feeling of injustice and need for change. It’s no wonder that it has won a number of awards at film festivals. After all, what else should a world issue’s documentary make you feel, if not a personal involvement with the problem and (more importantly) the solution.
Written by Francesca Bassenger, images courtesy of callmekuchu.com
Do you agree with capital punishment? It’s a question that rears its head every so often, generally after some tragic event too horrible for us to truly comprehend. Phrases like ’how could someone do something like that’ and words like ’animal’ and ’monster’ tend to follow. But the message that struck me hardest in Werner Herzog’s latest documentary ’Into The Abyss’ is that the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes are no less human than you or I.
We use these words to separate ourselves from them, a result of our fear that had our lives been different… different town, different upbringing, different life experiences… we too could have arrived at where they are now. As much as we would like to believe it, nobody is born bad and we all have the potential to become so.
Throughout the film, Herzog interviews a number of people surrounding a 2001 triple homicide including, the convicted, Michael Perry and Jason Burkett. Although his own voice is occasionally heard, that of the interviewees comes across as free and organic, un-enhanced or over emphasised by the powers of post-production.
Perhaps for this same reason, the film comes across as quite low budget, lacking the seamlessness or gloss that more mainstream documentaries have these days. Yet somehow this rawness is appropriate to the nature of the themes… murder, blame, death, and most importantly the rawness of life.
As Herzog says himself, the film is about life just as much as it about death, and his respect for both is evident. There is a distinct lack of shock-factor scenes that you almost expect to see from a film about death row. It would be so easy to insert gasp-inducing dramatic moments and yet Werner chooses to preserve the dignity of all involved. That said, the sense of tragedy and loss is ever-present.
Herzog avoids getting too far in to the nitty-gritty of Perry and Burkett’s individual level of involvement in the crimes, each blaming the other. In doing this the audience is encouraged to look at the bigger picture, the ‘characters’ could represent any victim, any killer, any case. It’s the principal of ending a life under any circumstance that is questioned, not whether it is acceptable, excusable or deserved in regards to this specific case.
’Into The Abyss’ has a stillness about it. No long pause is ever broken, nor is inserted for dramatic effect. There is a strong sense of unadulterated, bare faced ‘truth’ and consequently you leave feeling that you’ve made up your own mind in response to that initial question, or even perhaps not. What you don’t feel however, is that Werner made up his, and then spent the past 107 minutes trying to convince you of it.
‘Into The Abyss’ is released in the UK on the 30th March 2012.
Reviewed by Francesca Bassenger.