Budrus

Issue section: 
(350)

Director: Julia Bacha; Release date: 24 September

Budrus is a Palestinian village in the West Bank with a population of around 1,500. The village economy centres on agriculture, particularly the olive harvest.

This documentary film follows the inspiring protest movement which arose in the village in response to the planned route of Israel's apartheid wall. The wall would have cut through the village, stealing most of the land including the local cemetery.

Ayed, a community organiser, spearheads a strategy of popular non-violent resistance against the wall. As the route of the wall is announced, he convenes a village meeting. There follow the first protests which challenge the Israeli bulldozers and soldiers. In response, the soldiers declare the village land a "closed military zone".

The film highlights the central role played by women in the protests. Some of the most inspiring scenes show the village women fearlessly facing down the jeeps and batons of the soldiers.

As the protests increase, so does the violence of the soldiers. Some of the most shocking scenes are of the soldiers invading the village, beating villagers and using live ammunition. This poses the question of how non-violence operates in this situation. Does it involve not throwing stones at the soldiers? The film shows villagers debating this issue.

The film interviews a couple of the Israeli officers involved in the repression. They are shown to be utterly unreflective and unresponsive in terms of their own role as agents of occupation.

The film also challenges simplistic assumptions about Palestinian politics. Ayed comes from a Fatah background, but he works with the main Hamas organiser in the village. The Hamas organiser supports the non-violent strategy and welcomes Israeli activists who come to join the protests.

The Israeli activists are very principled, and the solidarity that emerges between them and the Palestinians is moving, but they remain a small minority within Israel.

After one and a half years of protests - including facing down soldiers and physically blocking the bulldozers - the villagers win a victory. The wall is rerouted around the village, sparing the local cemetery and 95 percent of the threatened land, and it is also out of sight of the local school.

The apartheid wall remains, but the villagers tore a hole in the wall of fear. The strategy of resistance in Budrus has become the model which other Palestinian villages and towns are now repeating. This represents a return to the strategy of the first intifada, based on popular struggle with women playing a central role, and is an encouraging development.

Above all, this film is a testimony to the tireless struggle and courage of the Palestinians. As an Israeli army officer bitterly comments in the film, "They went to all lengths to save their village."