Serves me right for giving the BBC’s Nick Fraser a hard time about his criticism of social activist documentaries last week. As soon as I put down my pen, I am led like a cow to water, to drink from the very same liberal industrial complex that Fraser decried.

BudrusI was asked to look at Budrus, a documentary that is opening in theaters this Friday. The film is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it plays out in a small village in the West Bank where the Israeli government is putting up a dividing wall. It’s a remarkable story about how one man unites various factions to effect change. But the real movement doesn’t really happen until a young woman steps to the plate. This is a film for those who are interested in the subject, or who want to see films about how a people can unite and fight peacefully to sway a powerful government. If that inspires you to want to see this documentary, then I encourage you to stop reading this post and to go to see it in the theater . . .

OK, now, for the rest of you: Listen, I lean further to the left than most folks, but there’s something about the spoon-fed, predictable quality of Budrus that just rubs me the wrong way. This is a Cause Documentary with a capital “C.” Some will love it. Fraser, I imagine, is not one of them. Although I appreciate the film’s political aims, it’s not something that moved me. When I watch a documentary, I want it to hit me on all levels — aesthetically, emotionally, and, yes, politically. Sigh, I find myself crawling into Fraser’s camp — whether he wants me there or not.

I can’t fault Budrus director Julia Bacha, who also directed Encounter Point and has Control Room (as writer and editor) under her belt — she’s clearly a very talented filmmaker with a powerful vision — for making Budrus the way she did. But it is what it is, as they say.

Note: The spelling of the director’s name has been corrected.

Published by

Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen