At this year’s Academy Awards, Israel’s blossoming film industry has two nominations for the Best Documentary Award. In this highly competitive category, Israel is dominating with “The Gatekeepers,” following former chiefs of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service operators, who give a tell-all expose of some of the most notorious operations in the West Bank and Gaza. “5 Broken Cameras,” released in the U.S. earlier this year by Kino-Lorber, follows a Palestinian man documenting the peaceful resistance of his Arab village in the West Bank (protesting illegal expansions of territories and land confiscation), and the not so peaceful reactions of the Israeli military.
Both films stylistically could not be more different. “The Gatekeepers” is made with ground breaking animated effects, while “5 Broken Cameras” is more of a gritty found-footage film, edited together to create a story from the guerilla images. But both films bring a critical perspective of Israel with hope to create change in the stalemate peace process and, more importantly, to change Israeli society’s unethical elements from within.
Last year, in a nearly empty screening room, I saw what became an Academy Award finalist in the documentary category, “5 Broken Cameras.” I then interviewed filmmaker Guy Davidi about his background and his work on the film for The Arty Semite.
Recently I had another email conversation with Davidi, discussing how he’s faring with his film in the limelight, the nature of his collaboration with his Palestinian co-director Emad Burnat, and whether he knew if his colleague (a novice in the trade) would pursue filmmaking in the future.
When asked his view of the other Israeli-produced film nominated for best documentary, “The Gatekeepers,” he was reluctant to say much, citing an Academy rule prohibiting him from commenting on a fellow nominee. He responded mainly about his experience as a nominee with his Palestinian partner, but began with the political impact of the other work:
”The Gatekeepers” has put an end to the claim that Ehud Barak conveyed that there is no Palestinian partner; for me [this] is the most important achievement of the film and [on] the political discourse in Israel.
We all know that the Oscars race has been going on for some time now, but with today’s announcement of the 2013 Academy Awards nominees, we can consider the contest official.
Two Israeli films are among the final five nominees for Best Documentary. The first, “5 Broken Cameras,” by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, documents the first years of Burnat’s baby against the backdrop of villagers from Bil’in in the West Bank battling against Israel’s building of the security fence. The second, “The Gatekeepers,” was directed by Dror Moreh and features interviews with six former chiefs of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, who until this film had been secretive about their and their agency’s work.
Steve Spielberg’s “Lincoln” leads the Oscar race with a total of 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (by Tony Kushner) and Best Director for Spielberg himself.
Veteran actor Alan Arkin got a nod for his supporting role in Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” about the stealth rescue of a group of American embassy workers during the Iranian hostage crisis.
The inclusion of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” among the nominees for Best Picture must be hugely exciting for its young production team of Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald.
The 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony will take place February 24, and will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane, who was surprised to be nominated for Best Original Song. He wrote the song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” for the comedy film “Ted.”
When emailing and skyping with Guy Davidi, the 33-year old Israeli co-director of “5 Broken Cameras,” opening May 30 in New York at the Film Forum, one encounters a sophisticated — albeit imperfect — speaker of English, with a vaguely British accent. His views, however, are always sharp: “My belief is that the construction of the wall has little to do with [the] security of Israel,” he said, because “there are still many settlers and settlements [on] the ‘Palestinian side’ of the wall. The choice to locate it within the occupied territories allows [Israel] to confiscate new Palestinian lands which makes any talk [of a] 2 state solution less and less relevant.”
Davidi first came to the West Bank village of Bil’in from his native Tel Aviv in 2005, as an “Indymedia” activist. Bil’in has been engaged in a non-violent struggle against Israel’s security barrier, which encroaches on its property, as do a number of Jewish settlements. Davidi spent several months there making his first full-length film, “Interrupted Streams” (2006). His current work documents life in Bil’in through 2010, when Israel’s supreme court ordered part of the security barrier to be removed from village land.
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