“Budrus” documentary on peace activism

Last week I saw a fantastic documentary: “Budrus“, an inspiring look at some of the non-violent activism that is shaping the Israel/Palestine conflict right now. Snip from the site:

“Budrus” is an award-winning feature documentary film about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier. Success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, launches a women’s contingent that quickly moves to the front lines. Struggling side by side, father and daughter unleash an inspiring, yet little-known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today. In an action-filled documentary chronicling this movement from its infancy, “Budrus” shines a light on people who choose nonviolence to confront a threat.

… While this film is about one Palestinian village, it tells a much bigger story about what is possible in the Middle East. Ayed succeeded in doing what many people believe to be impossible: he united feuding Palestinian political groups, including Fatah and Hamas; he brought women to the heart of the struggle by encouraging his daughter Iltezam’s leadership; and welcoming hundreds of Israelis to cross into Palestinian territory for the first time and join this nonviolent effort. Many of the activists who joined the villagers of Budrus are now continuing to support nonviolence efforts in villages from Bil’in to Nabi Saleh to Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.

“Budrus” includes diverse voices — from the Palestinian leaders of the movement and their Israeli allies to an Israeli military spokesman, Doron Spielman, and Yasmine Levy, the Israeli border police captain stationed in the village at that time. While many documentaries about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict either romanticize the notion of peace, or dwell entirely on the suffering of victims to the conflict, this film focuses on the success of a Palestinian-led nonviolent movement.

Personally, I was especially struck by the all-too-brief portrait of Yasmine Levy, the Israeli border police captain. She talked about how the Palestinian activists learned her name and would call to her, asking how a woman could be leading such an initiative. Although her face didn’t look tormented as she spoke, I still thought I could detect a sense of inner conflict in her words when she discussed feeling like a “robot” while being aimed by her Israeli superiors at the nonviolent protesters.

The organization that made “Budrus” is called Just Vision, and their mission is worth highlighting here as well:

Just Vision emerged in response to the lack of media coverage of Palestinian and Israeli civilians working to end the occupation and the conflict. While violent extremism receives front-page exposure, courageous nonviolence leaders and peacebuilders are relegated to occasional human interest stories. Consequently, at Just Vision, we work to ensure that these Palestinian and Israeli civic leaders are not only taken seriously as partners in the quest for peace, but are also more visible, valued and influential in their efforts.

There are thousands of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians stepping forward to end the bloodshed and the occupation, preserve human rights, promote reconciliation and build a sustainable, free and secure future for all. However, their stories seldom make the headlines, drowned out by sensational media coverage of the region. This prevents the discourse on nonviolent conflict resolution among Israelis and Palestinians from emerging in the public sphere.

There is an urgent need to share these peacebuilders’ and nonviolence leaders’ hard-won experiences with others, to promote initiatives that are successful and to encourage broader publics to get involved.

Just Vision launched in 2003 after two years of intensive research. We consulted nearly 500 Israeli and Palestinian leaders in nonviolence and peacebuilding to learn about their work, their successes, failures and lessons learned.

Here’s a list of upcoming “Budrus” screenings. Just Vision is also looking for more people to host screenings. The screening here in Chicago was free to attend, and organized by university students.

I don’t know much about this topic in general, and I welcome comments with educational links — or more critical reviews of the documentary.

3 comments for ““Budrus” documentary on peace activism

  1. Sid
    October 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Julia Bacha recently gave a brief TED talk about the film, brief but illuminating:


  2. Gretchen
    October 11, 2011 at 2:41 am

    Numerous villages and their leaders have formed a committee to unite the popular non-violent struggle against occupation, settlement expansion and the wall- one of their main websites is: http://www.popularstruggle.org/ – What mainstream media completely ignores is that these demonstrations are a weekly occurrence across the West Bank and coordinated to take place at approximately the same time every Friday (after the 2nd morning Adhan), however it is only really ever covered if it can be sensationalised.

    Unfortunately the Israeli military are keen to end these demo’s and are employing increasingly violent tactics against protesters and are also (particularly at this moment in the village of Al-Walajah) increasingly arresting and deporting international solidarity activists who participate.

    I saw an early screening of Budrus and it is definitely worth a watch, it’s nice to finally see something with the potential to go more mainstream that challenges the narrative on Palestinian grassroots movements.

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