Budrus - DVD Review

'once you start presenting something in this manner you cross the line from documentary maker to promotional videographer'

Budrus presents a difficult quandary: what worth the documentary which covers a little-seen hot topic, captures some startling pictures but disappointingly presents all of this in a highly filtered and technically suspect package?

Julia Bacha, Budrus' writer and director, uses the microcosm of the titular village to examine the divide between Palestinians and Israelis, as the latter seek to build a wall which will encroach on to Palestinian land and separate much of the tiny village from their agricultural livelihood. In doing so though, Bacha seems to forget that the documentary film-maker needs to have a bit of distance, a sense of detachment, from her subject. In a couple of scenes the camera operator - perhaps even Bacha herself - can be heard joining in with the Palestinians and decrying the Israelis for interfering in a peaceful protest.

That isn't to say that the film maker's argument is wrong or that her choice of sides is incorrect. What it is to say though is that once you start presenting something in this manner you cross the line from documentary maker to promotional videographer. Oscar-winning documentary The Cove came close to this exact same problem but the film-makers there balanced their identification with their subject matter with a definitive critique of the main players and their foibles. The opportunities for that are present within Budrus but all of them - from the very real danger of Palestinian suicide bombers to the political problems inherent within the Hamas party - are glossed over or, frankly, ignored.

The real shame of this is that Bacha wastes some fine footage of a story that prickles with indignation. A farmer shakes with anger as he asks an Israeli soldier if he uprooted his olive tree. The olive trees, the source of much of the village income, are his lifeblood and the heartache at losing one of them is etched all over his face. Later developments, involving pitched battles between the two sides, are genuinely scary but rather seem to undermine the 'peaceful protest' angle which the film is so eager to push.

Bacha's other obvious interest - namely the feminist implications of women being used as front line demonstrators and border guards - initially promises good documentary material but again feels manipulated or under-captured. The supposed lead female demonstrator is interviewed excessively but is only captured participating significantly in demonstrations once or twice. The chosen female border guard admits to being a pawn manipulated by higher ranking officers and, from that point forward, has little to add to the debate.

Frustrating and uneven, Budrus covers a worthwhile topic in a muddled and unpleasantly filtered way which transforms it from must-see documentary to sub-par campaign film.


Budrus is released in the UK on DVD on Monday 9th May.

Look further...

'An unsettling but finally uplifting experience' - The Telegraph, 4*


  1. Hey dude!

    I can't disagree with any of your points. It's a very one sided doc and I think part of that comes from the fact that it's about one paticular event using a much larger conflict as a back drop.

    It's an interesting film but is it a well made documentary? Maybe not.

  2. It's a very difficult one to judge. There's some good material here but I wanted more of a critique of both sides than the film delivered.

  3. I haven't seen this but it is a shame to learn that the film had difficulty remaining as objective 'as possible' (emphasis on 'as possible' since very few docs are totally objective). It is an excruciatingly touchy subject and I guess emotions and cultural ties got in the way of things. A shame.