The film Budrus is a documentary that follows the life of a Palestinian man, Ayed, who is the leader of an ongoing protest in the West Bank against the Israeli army. Ayed and his followers are protesting the barrier that the Israeli army is trying to build along Palestine's West Bank which would separate Israelis from Palestinians which they believe will protect the Israelis from terrorist attacks. One section of the barrier will surround six Palestinian villages, thus cutting the Palestinians off from their land and the olive trees which they rely on for their livelihood. Budrus is the name of one of these villages, the one in which Ayed and his family reside. In addition to many olive trees, the barrier will also cut through the cemetery which would be tragic to the people as well.
On the day that the olive trees in Budrus are set to be uprooted, Palestinians led by Ayed partake in a non-violent protest. Ayed believes in only non-violent protests, as they are much harder for the Israeli army to combat being that they would be unable to use significant force against the protesters. However on that day and several days following, the Israeli army manages to uproot more than 80 olive trees. This documentary vividly illustrates the Palestinian people grieving for their lost trees like they would grieve for a relative or loved one who had passed on. Additionally, it contradicts the Western media which often leads us to believe that there is only terrorism and violence in Palestine. Needless to say, as an American who lives worlds away from this kind of conflict, it is heart wrenching to see people falling on their knees to protect their land.
Unfortunately, Ayed's protests are failing to impact the Israeli army until his 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, becomes passionate about joining her father on his mission. And she does not join him by herself. Instead she gathers hundreds of women to stand at the front of the line facing the Israeli army head-on knowing that they will be less likely to use crowd control methods on women. In one particularly moving scene, Ayed's daughter jumps in front of a bulldozer that is intended to clear more of their trees, forcing the army to retreat. This element of the story contradicts another common Western belief that Middle Eastern women have no power or impact.
As a result of the protests in Budrus, which lasted for 10 months, the Israeli army changed the route of the barrier and the Palestinian people were able to save 95% of their land, the olive trees that reside on it, as well as their cemetery. Additionally, the success of the Budrus protests inspired other West Bank villages to use non-violent means to save their lands. However, the Israeli army refuses to credit the protesters for changing the barrier route and cited the change as being made for legal reasons.
What amazed me about this documentary is that the director, Julia Bacha, captures statements from the head of the Israeli army, and members of the Israeli border patrol while this conflict is actually going on. The army leader is completely cold and hardened to the Palestinians, and is lacking any discernible human emotion. It left me wondering if this was indeed part of his job or if he was a mere robot encompassed by human flesh. There seemed to be a shred of humanity displayed from the female member of the border police who confessed on film to becoming somewhat reactive to the impact that the Palestinian women had upon the protests. Needless to say, Budrus is very authentic, intriguing and helps provide some understanding into the lesser known conflicts happening each day in the Middle East.
Rating: FOUR BONES
Release Date: March 18th, 2011 at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan; look for it in select theaters across the country as well
Director: Julia Bacha
Writer: Julia Bacha