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.
I 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.