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Budrus: A Film That Gives Viewers Permission to Feel Something Unpopular

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The path of the wall in Budrus by Jillian

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is often regarded with great pessimism. The thought that Israelis will stop building in Palestinian lands and respect the borders agreed upon in a 1967 agreement is unbelievable. The notion that Palestinians might renounce all violent resistance, which the Israelis use to stymie efforts at peace, is far-fetched.

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There will most likely be no peace unless the people who are working in cooperation on films or art projects like Budrus are able to increase their impact on the world. This documentary is a success story that shows how peace can be forged through nonviolent acts of struggle.

Produced by Just Vision, the film tells the story of the village of Budrus in Palestine, where Israel is trying to confiscate three hundred acres of village land so they can build a wall. The community pleads with the soldiers to stop the construction so their community's olive trees and land can be saved. The pleas go unanswered and the Caterpillar bulldozers continue to destroy the land in preparation for the wall.

Community organizer Ayed Morrar decides to respond and lead a resistance movement against the construction in Budrus, but, first, tactics must be considered. Morrar understands what violence could mean for the community. He believes the community must not use violence and convinces the community to abandon traditional thinking, think strategically, and support a nonviolent resistance campaign.

The protest and resistance unfolds like any other oft-futile campaign by Palestinians until the community begins to cross boundaries. Women want to know why there are only men in the marches. The idea of women participating is pushed by Morrar's daughter to involve the women. The men let them join the march and place the women at the front of the march to deter Israeli military forces from using violence against them.

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As Israeli soldiers tighten their security around the construction and become less tolerant of resistance, the village advances its strategy against the wall. The community crosses political boundaries and gets Hamas to work with Fatah. And, the community also allows Israeli activists to enter Budrus and engage in resistance against the construction

Media propaganda and Israeli forces, as shown in the movie, are no match for the Palestinians, who are willing to put their bodies on the line and get hurt so that they can keep their land. The women inspire with their courage as they taunt soldiers defending the construction and throw themselves in front of bulldozers effectively stalling the demolition. Children participate. The Israeli activists break stereotypes the community has as they had never though an Israeli would care about Palestinian suffering. A public relations nightmare is created, which leads Israel to back off and change where they build the wall so Budrus villagers no longer challenge Israel.

Westerners or Americans have long thought that Palestinians needed to stick to nonviolence against Israel if they ever hoped to win peace. Julia Bacha, the writer and director behind the documentary, explained during an appearance on "Riz Khan" on Al Jazeera English, covering nonviolent struggles require patience. There is no guaranteed outcome. A person has to believe in the determination of the characters involved in the struggle. This is why Americans do not know about peaceful resistance by Palestinians; the media sometimes picks up on protest movements when they are at their most sensational points but often only display interest in covering violence, which can be blamed on terrorism.

Bacha is a filmmaker who is truly committed to the cause of forging cooperation and understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by shifting attitudes. She is greatly optimistic about nonviolence bringing peace to the Palestinians: 

"To use nonviolence is much harder. It requires much more courage. It requires much more bravery than using violent methods"These processes take time. They lead to societies that are more democratic. They lead to societies that in this case through the participation of women in the struggle will allow for women to have a bigger role in power. Hopefully, with the political parties having to organize together the end result will be that the political parties can disagree but they have a larger common goal. Also, the participation of Israelis in these demonstrations creates an opportunity for people, who have not met but who have share the land, in the end to recognize the dignity and rights in the other and, when peace comes, this will be a long term peace and not just a ceasefire."


For nine weeks, the film has been battling traditions of commercial censorship in America and has only been shown on a handful of theaters around the country. It has been on the festival circuit and has earned awards at the Berlin, Tribeca, San Francisco and Bergen International Film Festivals and also a Witness Award at the Silverdocs Film Festival. This may mean nothing to you, but for documentary filmmakers, festivals can sometimes be the only opportunity one has to show their film and convince a distributor to release the film to a wider audience.

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It has more power than any book by Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, or Ilan Pappe. The director and producers understand, as Neil Postman wrote, that images tend "to dismember reality." The news often "dismembers" the story of the conflict by showing only terrorism or by showing only war. The film challenges the "idiosyncratic" coverage of the conflict by adding a piece of the story that is often left out. That piece has more power than any other pieces of the story because it shows the people want peace but are struggling and need the world's help to survive.

The film, which began production in 2003, humanizes the Palestinians. It gives attention to a conflict that most artists and media makers would not dare, which is why so little art and media on the conflict is created. It is not afraid to make the Palestinians seem like real people who deserve empathy. And so, it creates inquisitiveness among Americans, who never would have dared to search for the truth about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

It makes Americans relieved to know people are trying to use nonviolence. It make some think about joining the struggle. It makes others, who have had their worldview or prejudice toward Palestinians challenged, admit they need to go home and think over what they just watched.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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