When I first met Ayed Morrar, the protagonist of Budrus, in September 2007, he was adamant that he was not worthy of a documentary film. Yet all Palestinian grassroots leaders he suggested I talk to quickly sent me back to him. It became clear that the unarmed struggle Ayed launched in 2003 to resist the building of Israel’s Separation Barrier through his village had become a role model to local activists. I hope this film can have the same effect on its viewers as the village’s efforts had on those who experienced it: inspiring more people to believe in, cover, support and join the unarmed struggles taking place throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories today.
For more than ten years now, villages across the West Bank have experienced a resurgence in nonviolent strategies to resist the Israeli occupation. Combining tactics borrowed from the first intifada in the 1980’s with the active participation of Israeli and international activists, this movement, though still fragile, carries great potential for the region. Ayed’s village, Budrus, was one of the very first communities to engage in this type of resistance and is held up as a model for what civil disobedience looks like in this context and what it can achieve.
Ayed succeeded in doing what many people believe to be impossible: he united rival political parties Fatah and Hamas; he brought women to the heart of the struggle by supporting his daughter Iltezam's leadership; and he welcomed hundreds of Israelis to cross into Palestinian territory and join the struggle.
I was lucky to work with an incredible team of Palestinians, Israelis and North Americans at Just Vision, an organization dedicated to documenting and disseminating the work of Palestinian and Israeli civilians working for freedom, dignity, equality and human security for all. Through extensive research, we were able to collect footage from over a dozen activists who had been in Budrus at some point during the movement. We also built an enduring relationship with Iltezam Morrar, Ayed’s teenage daughter, whose charisma and strength provide the heartbeat of the documentary, as it did for the struggle.
The film would not have been complete, however, without hearing the point of view of the Border Police officers who had to deal with what was one of the first organized unarmed movements to challenge the route of the Separation Barrier. We were fortunate that the squad commander, Yasmine Levy, agreed to talk earnestly with us. We were also able to include the perspective of Captain Doron Spielman, an Israeli Army spokesperson at the time.
Today, from Nabi Saleh to Ni’lin, Bil’in to Sheikh Jarrah, every week Palestinians from all political factions, along with Israeli and international supporters, often with women leading, gather to protest the confiscation of olive groves, house demolitions and settlement growth. They do so in creative ways and to varying degrees of success, yet remain virtually unknown. We hope this film can help bring them out of anonymity so we can all benefit from their courageous work.
Julia Bacha (2009)