Emad Burnat and Michael Moore on the Deeply Personal Struggle Behind '5 Broken Cameras'
The Palestinian filmmaker, who was detained by immigrations officials at LAX on Tuesday night, speaks about how his home videos became an Oscar-nominated documentary.
When Emad Burnat and his family were detained and almost deported by immigration officials upon their arrival in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, it marked just the latest hurdle in a bumpy, circuitous and altogether difficult years-long struggle.
Burnat, a Palestinian filmmaker whose documentary, 5 Broken Cameras, is nominated for an Oscar on Sunday, ultimately was released from custody and told he could stay in America for the awards show. Awards, though, were never his goal; all he ever wanted was to tell the world about his small village's struggle against encroaching Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Using a small, inexpensive digital camera, Burnat began filming the peaceful resistance to the new settlements and ultimately brought the footage to Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker and activist. He came aboard as co-director and urged Burnat to include personal footage of his family in what was initially a more political production.
"I believe that these kinds of films change people, and people feel more close to their story and to the reality because this story is about me, about my life, about my family and about my kids growing up," Burnat tells The Hollywood Reporter. "For me, it was very important to create this film and to work on this film for seven years, to follow the characters and follow my son, to create this piece of art, to show the world and show the people outside [Israel], what’s the reality in Palestine, and what’s going on, what is the truth? So I just showed them the daily life and my son growing up."
Michael Moore, who showed the documentary at his Traverse City Film Festival and accepted a Cinema Eye Honor on behalf of the filmmakers, called the film one of the best of the year -- fiction films included.
"I’ve watched this film now twice at the Jewish Community Center here in Manhattan, with a primarily Jewish-American audience, and people are visibly moved and shaken by what they’ve seen," he says. "And it’s very powerful. You really see what film can do to take people who had a position when they came in, and when they left, they felt something different. It’s very powerful."