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Courtesy of Hot Docs


Ordinary Israelis and Palestinians collaborate for peace

By Alanna Mitchell

Directed by Julia Bacha
(Just Vision)

Named after a tiny Palestinian village and the peaceful resistance movement born there, Budrus is an antidote to the stories about terrorism and death in the Middle East that we hear so often.

By turns dispassionate and fierce, awkward and profound, tense and triumphant, it makes a powerful case that the way forward is through ordinary Palestinians and Israelis banding together and eschewing violence. But perhaps that point of view isn’t surprising. Budrus was produced by Just Vision, a charity set up to tell stories of peaceful rebellion in the Middle East.

The narrative begins in 2003 when the military shows up on the outskirts of Budrus, a dusty village of 1,500 olive growers in the occupied territories of the West Bank, to build the infamous wall, also known as the “separation barrier.” The villagers realize that the path of the wall will cut them off from 300 acres of farmland, kill 3,000 olive trees and bisect the cemetery. It will also segregate the people of Budrus and five other villages from the rest of Palestine, making them prisoners in their own land. 

Enter Ayed Morrar, a self-effacing civil servant in the Palestinian government who has little faith in the political factions but immense amounts of it in his neighbours. Morrar helps organize 55 increasingly vocal but peaceful demonstrations at the bulldozers and the barrier, eventually drawing attention from peace-seeking Israeli citizens who cross the border to join the protest.

Because it is pieced together from rough, on-the-frontlines footage and low-key, professionally produced interviews, Budrus makes you feel as though you are a witness to history. We watch the story unfold, holding our breath. It’s not clear how the increasingly frustrated Israeli military will respond to the villagers.

The genius of the film is its focus on Morrar’s quiet determination and decency. One off-note is the underdeveloped subtext that victory stems from his reluctant approval to let village women join in the protests. It seems patched onto the larger elegance of the story.

More than anything, Budrus is a metaphor. If one parched village can do this, so can the whole region. 

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