Responsible for bringing some the best documentaries in recent years into the cinema (such as Burma VJ, Mugabe and the White African, Food Inc.) and also for some great independent releases (including the wonderful Oscar nominated Peruvian film The Milk Of Sorrow), Dogwoof continue their mission to uncover socially aware, humanitarian pictures from around the world with Budrus, a documentary following the peaceful protests by a Palestinian community against an Israeli ‘defensive’ fence on Palestinian land on the West Bank.
It offers an intimate portrait of those living on the knife edge of one of the most politically unstable regions in the world, and yet through candid interviews and front-line footage offers an eloquent argument against violence, that peaceful protest (particularly in front of the world’s media) can be a viable and workable alternative.
The focus of the film is Palestinian campaigner Ayed Morrar, wrangling communities into action and pressuring politicians and international media to take action, he’s a tireless worker who was instrumental in the First Intifada and imprisoned five times by the Israelis. Now fighting the incoming bulldozers which will tear up the olive groves the people of Budrus are dependent upon for survival, Morrar rallies them to march in non-violent protest against a fence due to be erected by the Israeli army miles beyond the Green Line and into Palestinian territory.
The footage, shot with urgency and immediacy on consumer grade DV, provides incredible narrative drive from the thick of the demonstrations. Often hard to watch, especially as the Israeli army up their efforts to disperse the crowds, the sense of wonder at the courage of those unwilling to stand by as their land is forcibly taken from them at gunpoint is astonishing. As Morrar says, “There are two ways of looking at the situation. We can say it’s God’s wish and stand by, allowing it to happen. Or we can say that it’s a trial, a challenge that has to be faced and overcome”. Images of rocks being thrown at bulldozers and armoured vehicles illustrate a battle that will never be won by force, but they’re counterpointed with those of left-wing Israelis marching against the fence alongside the people of Budrus, so distant from the vascillating political voices shown on TV news reports, a picture of unity and commonality of purpose that humanises the conflict and provides a fresh perspective from the ground.
Budrus is incredibly vital cinema and I hope it gets a wide enough release, exciting and provoking, it asks you to re-evaluate your preconceptions of an area rich in humanity and tolerance, and whilst not providing all the answers, at least has the courage to present one small victory for peace as the best one so far.
Budrus - 2009 - USA - 77 mins - Dir : Julia Bacha