Friday, September 22, 2017

Emmy Awards recognize Palestinian struggle


By Samuela Galea - December 02, 2013
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Section: [Main News] [Culture] [Features]
Tags: [Hebron] [settlements] [Settlers]

Emad Burnat (left), the Palestinian director of 5 Broken Cameras, with his Emmy Award, and Adeeb Abu Rahmeh (right), one of the documentary's main protagonists, together at last Friday's protest in Bil'in. Photo by Calum Toogood.

 

It is not uncommon to read about Palestinians in the headlines; one need only read recent news regarding the West Bank and Gaza  to learn about the Prawer Plan and houses being demolished, their relatives being shot at checkpoints or gassed at protests, their trees being burnt, the attempted peace negotiations, etc. Yet it is very seldom that a Palestinian wins an Emmy Award, indeed it is the very first time, as stated by the Palestine News Network.

Emad Burnat, Bil'in resident and film Director, along with co-Director Guy Davidi and Producer Christine Camdessus, won the award for Best Documentary at the 41st International Emmy Awards, last Monday 25th November in New York, for their production of 5 Broken Cameras

Starting in 2005 and continuing for several years, Mr Burnat decided to shoot his son Gibreel's childhood in connection with the non-violent resistance efforts of his fellow Bil'in villagers against the construction of  Israel’s Apartheid Wall on their land. This opposition was never welcomed by Israeli forces nor acknowledged for its attempt at being peaceful. On the contrary, it was received with violence, with tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, occasional live ammunition, beatings, arrests, and the breaking of cameras as an attempt to destroy any evidence of such aggressive behavior.

But resilience and persistence succeeded. After the first camera was broken, Mr Burnat acquired another and kept recording, and so on, one after the other until all the footage collected of his friends' efforts became substantial enough to create a documentary and all the broken cameras became unique pieces of evidence worth sharing. By then, he had witnessed the injury of numerous relatives and friends  duringconfrontations with Israeli forces. In such extreme circumstances of violent attacks, the cameras had become secondary to his will, nothing stopped him from filming and despite all the difficulties he managed to get the message across successfully.

Appearing in the documentary’s footage is the death of Bassem Abu Rahmeh in 2009, after a tear gas grenade was fired at him from a short distance. With the help of NGOs Yesh Din and B’Tselem, Bassem’s family have ever since tried to investigate the truth of the persons responsible, yet the investigation was closed earlier this year by the Military Advocate General (MAG) on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence. In 2011, Bassem’s sister Jawaher Abu Rahmeh died from asphyxiation after inhaling a large amount of tear-gas likewise at a protest in Bil’in. This caused further sorrow to the family and community, and enhanced the response of anger to the Israeli forces’ use of violence on peaceful protestors.

The documentary has already been screened at a number of film festivals. It won the award for best Israeli Documentary at the 2012 Jerusalem Film Festival (Athough Burnat is Palestinian, the Documentary received Israeli funding.  The Israeli media’s advertisement of the production as Israeli during its first released,caused great debate.).5 Broken Cameras also won an award for best Documentary Directing in the World Cinema category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival; and though it did not get the title, it was nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary Feature earlier this year.

Residents of Bil'in are known to resist and fight for what they believe in. The small village has has become a symbol of the weekly Palestinian protests against Israeli policies in the West Bank, protests aimed at regaining land annexed by Israel’s Apartheid Wall and removing the occupation as whole. Residents of Bil’in along with international and left wing Israeli supporters march to the fence every Friday to meet heavily armed Israeli soldiers with their bare hands and their bare hearts, with such spirits as worthy of more than any number of awards combined.

On the 24 June 2011, after six years of ongoing protests, their efforts were partially rewarded and protest turned into celebration with the Separation Wall being pushed back several hundred meters. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered the section of the wall built on Bil’in land to be moved further back, returning a portion of the stolen land back to the people of Bil’in. 

Their resistance even goes beyond direct protests and transforms into practicality, as over the years they have tried to maintain their presence between the fence and the rest of their village by planting trees. They have also collected the tear gas grenades fired each week and planted flowers and plants inside, creating a garden in honor of the Palestinians killed during protests as well as a sign of life and perseverance. 

"We turn their grenades into a source of life," says a Palestinian activist for Friends of Freedom and Justice in Bil'in. He told Palestine Monitor earlier this month that members of the organization as well as Bil'in residents are very proud of 5 Broken Cameras, adding that it is all part of a longer story for them. No matter what happens, they will never give up their fight.

Winning the Emmy Award is indeed a memorable event for both the directors, the residents of Bil'in and Palestinians in general. It is an honorable recognition of their daily and yearly struggle, their ability to turn this same struggle into art that communicates across continents, their need for support and most of all, a recognition of their undying hope. 

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