Oscar-nominated 5 Broken Cameras has become a source of controversy among this year's Oscar nominations, following Israel's apparent appropriation of ownership in the wake of its nomination in the Best Feature-Length Documentary category.
The film collects together years' worth of footage of demonstrations surrounding the struggle of the Palestinian villagers of Bilin, near the West Bank apartheid wall, which Palestinian film maker Emad Burnat originally collected together for Electronic Intifada. Immediately following the film's nomination, Burnat issued a statement saying: “This is one of the happiest moments of my life. The village of Bilin is celebrating because of international support of my film. As a child I remember watching the Oscars on TV … I don’t recall seeing films about Palestine, the occupation or our struggles. Times have changed.”
It wasn't long before the situation became more complicated, however. Almost immediately following the nomination, the Israeli press, as well as sections of the US media, began referring to the film as an 'Israeli' one, with even the Israeli Embassy in Washington describing it as such when Tweeting its delight at the film's nomination.
Burnat, unsurprisingly, disagreed, stating on his Facebook page that the film is a: “Palestinian film … My story, my village story, my people’s story, seven years I was working on the film.”
Certainly the subject matter is hardly one you would expect Israel to be queueing up to applaud in the absence of an Oscar nomination, but things become yet more complicated as the film did indeed receive Israeli funding, as well as Palestinian and French funding, and also had two directors - Burnat himself, and Israeli co-director Guy Davidi. Davidi seems to have attempted to play down the furore, conceding that the film is both Palestinian and Israeli, and stating that he does not feel films should come with citizenship.
Indeed, technically the film's citizenship should be of no relevance in this case. It has not been nominated in the 'Foreign Film' categories, so no origin needs attaching to it for Oscar purposes, while both the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the Palestinian Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions National Committee have confirmed it is not boycottable under their own regulations, which do not require the boycotting of artists who receive Israeli funding, providing their work is independent from the will of the Israeli state and government.
However, it seems the battle lines over ownership of the film have well and truly been drawn now, and indeed Burnat was quoted recently by a journalist at Australia's Middle east News Service as saying: "If Israel continues to state that it is an Israeli film, I will pull the film from the Oscars. If Academy awards organisers would present Five Broken Cameras as an Israeli film - I won't not there ... all said and done it's a Palestinian film. It was filmed here and presents the story of the village. People in Bil'in say 'we made a film that documents a seven years' struggle to remove fence, and in the end you go to Israel and hand them over a gift?' On the street they do not understand what is a coproduction."
The story seem set to run and run right up to the Oscar's and beyond.