A Story Of Nonviolent Protest In The Mideast

The new documentary film Budrus tells the story of a Palestinian village that was right in the path of a planned section of the Israeli security wall. As Israeli border security tried to clear the path for bulldozers, the people of the village mounted a sustained nonviolent protest to block the construction. Over the course of many months in 2003 and 2004, Palestinians of all political stripes were joined by Israeli demonstrators. Israelis finally did reroute the wall closer to the border and away from the town. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with the film's writer and director, Julia Bacha, about the movie and its message of nonviolent protest.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

The story of the wall and its effect on one tiny West Bank village is the subject of a new documentary. Budrus is the name of the village and the film, which has won awards at the Tribeca and San Francisco Film Festival, among others.

The action in "Budrus" unfolds in 2003 and 2004.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BUDRUS")

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

LOUISE KELLY: That's the scene, as Israeli bulldozers rolled in to tear down the village's ancient olive trees and make way for the security barrier. The documentary chronicles the efforts of one Palestinian man and his 15-year-old daughter, who unite the village to try to stop them.

Julia Bacha is the writer and director of "Budurs," and she joins us now from our New York bureau. Hi, there.

JULIA BACHA: Hello.

LOUISE KELLY: Tell us first about this Palestinian man, Ayed Morrar, who emerges as the somewhat unlikely hero of the film.

BACHA: Mm-hmm. Ayed Morrar is currently actually working in the Palestinian Authority. And he realized when he saw his village was about to be destroyed that he could not wait for the Palestinian Authority to do anything; that he depended on people in the village to do something. And what he had the vision to do is to extend an invitation to Israeli activists.

And that's at the core of his vision, is that the struggle needs to be of Palestinians and Israelis together because they share a future. And if they struggle together, they're more likely to build relationships that will last.

LOUISE KELLY: And the core of his philosophy is fighting back but not with arms, using civil disobedience. I mean there's a poignant irony as you watch the bulldozers rolling in to tear down olive trees. I mean of all things, the very symbol of peace in the name of building this wall.

BACHA: Ayed Morrar saw that there was nothing else that the village could do, except to try to - with their bare bodies - stop the bulldozers from uprooting the trees. The amazing part of this story is that the first person to actually be able to break through the Israeli border police lines and stand in front of a bulldozer was his daughter who was 15 at the time and who convinced his father that the women needed to join.

LOUISE KELLY: Well, and she's interesting because she, as you say, she looks at these protests. She says why is it only men marching? Here's a little bit of her talking.

ILTEZAM MORRAR: We saw the men trying to push the soldiers and it was then that none of them could do that. But I think the girls could do it.

LOUISE KELLY: I think the girls could do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LOUISE KELLY: When you interviewed her, what did she say about why it mattered to her to have women involved from the very early stages of these protests?

BACHA: She talked a lot about having seen her mother and her grandmother participate in the First Intifada. And that for some reason she couldn't understand why, since the First Intifada, the role of women had gone into the background in Palestinian resistance. And she wanted to take responsibility. She wanted to actively try to change the situation in a way that she believed was the right one, which is through nonviolent resistance.

LOUISE KELLY: She also seemed to grasp, fairly early on, that if it's bad PR to have your bulldozers mowing down olive trees, it's going to be even worse PR to see them mowing down women.

BACHA: I think that she was right about that. I think, historically, there is more likely to be violence between young Palestinian men and young Israeli border police officers.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

BACHA: When the women come in, waving their flags, singing, chanting and clapping, they confused the Israeli border police officers to the point that they had to send in a female commander, who's also portrayed in the film - Yasmine Levy.

LOUISE KELLY: Hmm. The film's sympathies do seem to lie pretty squarely with the Palestinian protesters. But you include interviews with the Israeli security forces who have been sent to Budrus. There's one very telling interview that you did with an Israeli military spokesman who is very blunt about how he sees the situation unfolding.

P: The thing that is extremely unfortunate to the lives of the Palestinian people, however, it is less unfortunate than the death of an Israeli civilian.

LOUISE KELLY: As you made this film, Julia Bacha, did you come away with any sympathy for the Israeli point of view, for the security dilemma that they face?

BACHA: I think the security dilemma is a very important one, and it's one that many countries around the world face today. This is a small community that, yes, happens to be in the West Bank but could have been in many places around the world and historically, and is facing with the potential destruction of their livelihood and with serious human rights violations and violations of international law.

And what the film is trying to show is that it doesn't need to be a zero sum game. That often we always talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as either it's Israeli security or it's Palestinian freedom. And I think that there is a way for both to be realized and this village, I think, symbolizes that potential.

LOUISE KELLY: What do you feel is your responsibility as a documentary filmmaker? Is it to tell an objective story that lets both sides have their say? Or is it to tell a good story that provokes people to think about a situation in a new way?

BACHA: We were not making a film about the conflict. We were talking about a village and their struggle. We limited all of our points of views to people who were involved in that village. So in that sense, people who might be hoping to see a sort of rehashing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how Israelis feel and Palestinians feel in the big picture will be disappointed.

So for us, it was really important, and I was very curious to know how did, you know, young Israeli border police officers, who were sent in this village to crush a movement, felt when they realized that they were facing women, children, men chanting and waving flags.

It was a long process of trying to get Yasmine Levy and Doron Spielman to agree to talk to us. We are very grateful that they did. Yasmine Levy has seen the film, said that she thinks it's good and objective, and that's very important for us.

LOUISE KELLY: Thank you so much.

BACHA: Thank you.

LOUISE KELLY: That's the writer and director, Julia Bacha, talking about her film "Budrus." Protests continued in Budrus for 10 months. The wall was eventually re-routed.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.