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The Palestinian experience, as seen on screen

Emad Burnovercomes technical obstacles “5 Broken Cameras” an Oscar-nominated documentary. | Kino Lorber Inc.

Emad Burnat overcomes technical obstacles in “5 Broken Cameras,” an Oscar-nominated documentary. | Kino Lorber Inc.

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When: Through May 2

Where: Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State; School of the Art Institute, 280 S. Columbus

Tickets: $11 (discounts for members and students)


Updated: May 22, 2013 6:24AM

The Chicago Palestine Film Festival offers indelible images and intimate perspectives on the Palestinian experience. Screening through May 2 at two Loop venues, this politically accented fest is a project of the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society, with support from Electronic Intifada and the Chicago Arab Heritage Council.

Among the lineup of documentaries, “5 Broken Cameras” is the Palestine-Israel-France co-production by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi that was nominated for best documentary Feature at this year’s Oscars. The narrator and main cameraman is Burnat, a villager who bought his first camcorder in 2005, when his fourth son was born. On the way to capturing the boy’s fifth birthday party, Burnat documents encounters with Israeli soldiers who break most of his title cameras.

This moving diary, which recalls a profile of an Al-Jazeera stringer in Ramallah from the 2008 fest, screens 6:15 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 5:15 p.m. April 28 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Another strongly recommended feature is “Lacan Palestine,” which screens at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the film center’s former site at 280 S. Columbus, a different School of the Art Institute building. Canadian experimental filmmaker Mike Hoolboom composes a psychoanalytic take on Palestinian identity, slavery, liberty and “singularity.” This entrancing essay-style film analyzes father-and-son dynamics with allusions to Herman Melville, John Coltrane and French theorist Jacques Lacan. He edits Middle Eastern visuals taken from Biblical epics and independent video artists.

Many filmmakers focus on boys. We see a Palestinian suffer inside a violent video game played by another boy, a boy whose house is taken by Israelis, a boy who runs away from a refugee camp and joins rebels, boys arrested by Israeli soldiers, and teens in therapy after their release from Israeli prisons.

“Palestine is like the cinema: It’s searching for independence,” said French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard in 2010. He inspired Palestinian filmmakers who declared in a 1973 manifesto: “The light weapon is the primary weapon of the people’s war, and similarly, the light 16mm camera is the most appropriate weapon for the cinema of the people.”

The technology may be digital now, but the agenda is no different.

Bill Stamets is a locally based free-lance writer.

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