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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 10:28 GMT
Palestinian film shows life with conflict
Elia Suleiman
Suleiman's film is a comedy about life under occupation
Understanding the daily realities of life in the Israeli-occupied territories of Palestine is the aim of the controversial film Divine Intervention.

Its Palestinian director, Elia Suleiman, says it is not a dry Middle East history lesson but an insight into the human impact of the occupation.

"This is cinema, it is not reportage," he told the BBC World Service's Meridian Screen programme.

"What you get is an ambience of what it is to have an occupation."

Extraordinary

Critics have compared Divine Intervention - or Yadon Ilaheyya - to the works of silent comic maestros Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton.

This black and slow-burning comedy with long silences and little dialogue, Suleiman explained, provides an insight into the everyday life in the area between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

When cinema tells itself well, it tells not about the locale but all sorts of universal things

Elia Suleiman

He said how even in the most dangerous flashpoints in the world, people get used to extraordinary events.

"When cinema tells itself well, it tells not about the locale but all sorts of universal things.

"A spectator in England might reflect on their own situation, where they live as it is not only about occupation, but it is about people as individuals and their desires and pleasures."

In a series of leisurely-paced scenes, Suleiman shows the banal realties of petrol bomb attacks and army checkpoint searches, combining them with dreamlike sequences. Rare

Suleiman insists that the film, subtitled A Chronicle of Love and Pain, provides an alternative view to the whole issue of confrontation.

"For those who only get information about the situation through the television and sensationalist reporting, they might get another image when they see the film," he stressed.

Elia Suleiman
Elia Suleiman himself plays the hero in the film
"What they usually see is a reductive history which stereotypes the oppressed and the oppressor.

"This film tells you nothing about Palestine, you don't come out from this film knowing the geography or socio-political atmosphere."

Ultimately it will fall to the audience to decide whether Suleiman's attempt to provide the real story behind the headlines is a success.

Acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the international critics' prize, Divine Intervention might have been a contender for an Oscar as well - except that Hollywood's Academy of Motion Pictures refused to accept it as a candidate for the best foreign-language film.

Taking their lead from the United Nations, the film failed to qualify as the Academy does not recognise Palestine as a nation.

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16 Jan 03 | Entertainment
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