Israel, Palestine and the Oscars
by Amy Goodman
February 20, 2013
The Academy Awards ceremony will make history this year with the first-ever nomination of a feature documentary made by a Palestinian. “5 Broken Cameras” was filmed and directed by Emad Burnat, a resident of the occupied Palestinian West Bank town of Bil’in, along with his Israeli filmmaking partner Guy Davidi. What does a Palestinian farmer wear on the red carpet in Hollywood? We were almost prevented from knowing, as Burnat, his wife and 8-year-old son were detained at Los Angeles International Airport and threatened with deportation. Despite his formal invitation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, it took the intervention of Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore, who now sits on the Academy Board of Governors, followed by Academy attorneys, for Burnat and his family to gain entry into the country.
“5 Broken Cameras” is in competition at the Oscars with an Israeli documentary, “The Gatekeepers,” a film that features interviews with the six surviving former directors of Israel’s Shin Bet, the country’s secret internal security service, which functions as sort of hybrid of the U.S. FBI and CIA. In the film, all six condemn the current practices of Israeli occupation and settlement expansion.
In a remarkable case of life imitating art, as celebrities gather for the entertainment industry’s biggest gala of the year, the Israel/Palestine conflict is being played out on the streets of Tinseltown.
A Night at the Oscars for Israel-Palestine
by Roane Carey
February 20, 2013
This article appeared in the March 11-18, 2013 edition of The Nation .
Dror Moreh’s film The Gatekeepers – one of five nominated for an Academy Award in the documentary feature category – is a brilliant, deeply disturbing portrait of the post-1967 Israeli occupation. This year’s strong field of nominees also includes 5 Broken Cameras, another film about the occupation, directed by Palestinian Emad Burnat with Israeli Guy Davidi.
It’s hard to imagine two more stylistically and thematically distinct films. Burnat’s is a highly personal account of the struggle of his West Bank village, Bil’in, against Israel’s separation wall, and the accompanying army and settler destruction of its olive groves. Burnat interweaves scenes of domestic life with those of Bil’in’s weekly protests; the fact that five of his cameras were broken by the army in the course of filming is a testament both to his seemingly continuous engagement and the army’s habitually violent response to unarmed protest. 5 Broken Cameras is a moving and artfully constructed diary of family and community resistance.
The Gatekeepers, on the other hand, tells the story of occupation from the standpoint of its leading enforcers, six former heads of the General Security Service, or Shin Bet. The film is remarkable for its historical breadth and revelations from those who have run one of the country’s most secretive agencies. Never before have this many Shin Bet heads spoken on the record. From Avraham Shalom, who led the service from 1980 to 1986, to Yuval Diskin (2005-11), these men are intellectually impressive and sometimes eloquent, though at times they display a chilling ruthlessness. Moreh says he was inspired by The Fog of War, Errol Morris’s 2003 portrait of Robert McNamara, and the influence is evident. Moreh’s interviews are framed by creepy re-enactments of intelligence operations, multiple computer screens, repeated surveillance shots of assassination targets. The underlying mood, heightened by a doom-laden soundtrack and computerized simulations, is one of foreboding, conveying the sense of an impersonal, machinelike bureaucracy at work. Yaakov Peri (1988-94), who headed the Shin Bet at the height of the first intifada, says it is “a well-oiled system. It’s well organized and effective.”