Israeli Oscar nominee: ‘Films have no nationalities’

Israeli Oscar nominee: ‘Films have no nationalities’

Guy Davidi (left) with co-director Emad Burnat

Our frequent online critic, Ted (not to be confused with our friend, Ted Jonas), made a particularly hurtful, vituperative comment some weeks ago, calling me a “racist” among other things, for allegedly denigrating the role of the Palestinian co-director of “5 Broken Cameras,” Emad Burnat.  I knew from my previous contacts with Guy Davidi, the Israeli co-director, that Davidi had taken the lead in shaping the film, given the fact that he is a trained and experienced professional filmmaker and Burnat is not.  And so, as a co-administrator of this blog, I deleted Ted’s abusive comment, but not before making note of his explicit challenge for me to ask Davidi more about his working relationship with Burnat.

Davidi did not respond to my initial email a month ago, but he did reply more recently.  Our new interaction, in which he responded to my questions on how he is faring now that “5 Broken Cameras” is a finalist for an Oscar in the best documentary category, resulted in a new article at The Forward’s Arty Semite blog.

The title was not my choice and could be misread as an attack on the filmmaker: “Why Oscar Nominee Doesn’t Represent Israel.”  Davidi registers his disappointment over the competing nationalist claims for authorship of this film: “Films have no nationalities,” he declared, and went on to depict in some detail his role and that of his Palestinian colleague, in this “Palestinian-Israeli-French co-production, [with] Israeli and Palestinian directors and a story that is told [with] Palestinian characters and in the West Bank.”

This is his entire email response (not published in full in The Forward piece) about how he and Burnat worked together, and whether Burnat will continue to make films:

By the way, indeed, I wrote the texts [script]. Originally Emad didn’t want to make a film on himself, his family or Gibreel [his youngest son].  Since he filmed many things, he did have some great personal footage. Now in reflection, he says he always wanted to make a personal film, but when we met in the beginning, he presented me a film that focused on Phil and Adeeb [villagers who were charismatic figures in the protests]. After Phil’s death [from being struck with a teargas canister], he even had a name for it, “Elephants in Bil’in,” so when I entered the project, I worked with him so he would film more personal scenes to be able to shape the story of Emad, Gibreel and his family.

I don’t know if he will do more films; I’m not sure if [he] wants to.  If he has a good team that will help him to shape a story, he might be able to do so. Creating a film is team work, and the most important quality is to be able to bring all the creative people to work together.

You can hear Emad Burnat’s voice front & center in a joint guest appearance with Guy Davidi on Brian Lehrer’s WNYC radio talk show:

Also edited out of my Forward piece is Davidi’s effort to use the film to teach young Israelis about the reality of the occupation in the West Bank:

I also launched a campaign to bring the film to Israeli schools. The ministry of education rarely takes a film like ours as part of the school program, so I hope an Oscar will give me back wind to do that.

I have created a promo screening documented here:

and an indiegogo campaign:

By | 2013-02-12T12:44:00-05:00 February 12th, 2013|Blog|3 Comments


  1. Anonymous February 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    I encourage readers to come to their own judgements about your words below, as well as your decision to ask only Guy and not Emad:

    “‘Five Broken Cameras’ was clearly a collaboration, but Davidi was the creative engine for this project.”

    “When I interviewed him for The
    Forward, he indicated that the conception of the film was basically his, including the decision to use Burnat’s son’s growth from his toddler days, as a narrative frame. And Davidi wrote the script that Burnat used for the narration, albeit with Burnat’s consultation.”

    “Burnat was described by Davidi as a farmer who was an avid amateur photographer. But now he’s also a filmmaker, thanks to Davidi.”



  2. Ralph Seliger February 12, 2013 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I’m glad that Ted is not calling me names here. He accurately quotes a comment I made. I then followed his advice and confirmed with Davidi that this is his understanding.

    Now Ted is moving the goalposts and telling me to ask Emad Burnat. I see no need to doubt Davidi’s recounting of their working partnership — which should be hailed as an example of Israeli-Palestinian amity and a beacon of hope.

  3. the publisher February 14, 2013 at 6:28 am - Reply

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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