directed by: Elia Suleiman
starring: Elia Suleiman; Manal Khader
|Bob says: "I found DIVINE INTERVENTION funny, in a very
odd way. A lot of it reminded me of Keaton and Tati (so with THE TRIPLETS
OF BELLEVILLE we've
got two Tatiesque movies this year), with a silent, mostly
unemotional protagonist dealing with utterly absurd situations.
"I found the fact that that style was used to make a pretty strong political
statement was highly original and rather effective."
|Diane says: "Janet and I could make nothing of DIVINE
INTERVENTION, that strange
film about the everydayness of violence in Palestine. I'm looking forward
to hearing what's so wonderful about it at the Agonalia." 1 cat
"Elia Suleiman wrote, directed, and stars in this dark, surreal comedy
about about life in Nazareth. Suleiman doesn't appear until midway through
the movie. By the time he appears, we have a pretty good feel for the neighborhood
characters and their grievances. We see people doing the same things day
after day, and when the routine is disrupted, say by a molotov cocktail,
the reaction is also routine.
"The main character, E.S., is a filmmaker whose 'storyboard' consists of post-it notes on two walls in his hallway. He and The Woman meet at the checkpoint on the Jerusalem/Ramallah road, where they sit, hold hands, and watch the guards inspect the cars and check IDs. In a wonderful scene, E.S. blows up and releases a red balloon with Yassir Arafat's face on it. The balloon floats around the city while the guards try to figure out if they can 'bring it down.' Of course I couldn't help thinking of the old Nena anti-war song, 99 Red Balloons.
"Suleiman has a wonderful face that is reminiscent of Buster Keaton. With his big brown eyes and deadpan face, you can read pain, love, and anger all at the same time.
" The dialogue could probably fit on 2 or 3 of the main character's post-it notes. People act and react, they don't discuss. And it worked. The characters, other than the checkpoint guards, are nameless.
"In another of my favorite scenes, E.S. stares down the driver next to him at a stop light, to the sound of a woman singing I Put a Spell on You. I didn't think anyone could top the Screamin' Jay Hawkins version, but this comes close.
"My only negative comment is that the target practice scene unfortunately is not long enough. I give this movie 4 cats, and could easily see it again soon."
"Elia Suleiman subtitles his film A CHRONICLE OF LOVE AND PAIN and
he shows a real knack for getting to the human foibles upon which great
political turmoil are built. Mixing visually comic, often silent, set pieces
with action fantasy and melancholy reflection, Suleiman presents the Israeli/Palestian
border as the ground zero of absurdist human tragi-comedy.
"That's ironic considering the absurdist treatment of Suleiman's film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which refused to consider DIVINE INTERVENTION as Palestine's submission for Foreign Language film because the UN doesn't recognize Palestine as a country, yet the Academy accepts submissions from Hong Kong, which, the last I checked, was not a country at all.
"Suleiman is rightly compared to French director Jacques Tati, who also used visual patterns and sound effects in his largely silent comedies. In Bethlehem, a young boy kicks a soccer ball. Two old men, their heads reflecting the shape of the ball, sit on a rooftop like 'Sesame Street's' balcony geezers watching as the ball pops into and out of their line of sight before landing on the rooftop across the street. Another old man walks out, deflates the ball with a knife, and hurls it back into the street.
"Suleiman's lover, a fashion plate in pastel pink, boldly parades through an Israeli checkpoint, its guards thrown into confusion as their watchtower topples from her strength. She later appears as an invincible Palestian ninja, haloed with bullets at an Israeli shooting range. Suleiman returns to the checkpoint again and again, most comically when he sets of a balloon featuring the face of Arafat which gains unlawful entry and floats over the city aping the French film THE RED BALLOON.
"Suleiman, who never changes his hangdog expression throughout his film, also faces the loss of his father, a man introduced vibrantly greeting neighbors from his car while branding them with vile epithets. A quiet scene in a hospital room is beautifully lit, framing the two men against inky darkness. When he dies, the son is left sitting alone with his mother, contemplating the pressure cooker simmering on their stove.
"DIVINE INTERVENTION is both hilarious and thought-provoking. If only dying of laughter was the curse of the human race." 4 1/2 cats
"Ooookay... huh? Haha! Wow!
"Yes, that basically sums up my reaction to Elia Suleiman's inventive film DIVINE INTERVENTION. Alternately slow-paced with long static shots and crazily compelling, I understand that the film is saying something about the fragile nature of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, but beyond that I'm unsure.
"The film is set up in three parts. The first shows life in the town of Nazareth, and people go about their routines, sometimes maddeningly so. A man shouts curse-ridden greetings to his neighbors as he drives down the street. When he takes ill, his son, (the director himself, known as E.S.) must travel to hospital and care for his ailing father. This leads to Part 2, which centers on an Israeli checkpoint between Jerusalem and the neighboring Palestinian area of Ramallah. There E.S. meets with his lover (known only as 'The Woman') in a parking lot, the only place where the two can meet. 'The Woman' appears in several different guises, including a bombshell in pink who strides down the street and past the checkpoint in defiance of the guards (one of my favorite scenes), and a Palestinian, Ninja superhero (in another incredible scene). Part 3 involves this mystery woman and her struggle with a squad of Israeli soldiers on a shooting range. This startling, special-effects laden, and choreographed scene segues into the final moments of E.S's family dilemma, and poignantly takes the film to its conclusion.
"While some of the long, static shots bordered on indulgent, the sense of comic whimsy, terrific camera work, and powerful use of music more than make up for them. This is a film which requires some thought to grasp, but it's a pretty entertaining ride while you're watching." 3 1/2 cats
"Santa Claus, with a knife sticking out of his chest and his presents
scattering down a hill, is pursued by a gang of rock-wielding teens. A youthful
soccer player accidentally kicks his ball onto a neighbor's rooftop terrace
the owner takes out a large knife, stabs the ball and tosses the now-lifeless
orb back to the boy. A man takes his neatly wrapped trash and tosses it
into the garden of his neighbor who he calls shameful when she tosses it
back into his yard. A balloon bearing the cartoon image of Yassir Arafat
floats over an Israeli checkpoint and the confused soldiers phone in to
headquarters for permission to shot down the floating offender. These are
just some of the images and action that Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman
brings to the screen in his whimsical and poignant feature film, DIVINE
"Helmer/scribe Suleiman brings his political views to the fore with his second feature film, DIVINE INTERVENTION. The film is in three parts. Part one takes place in predominantly Palestinian Nazareth and focuses, mainly, on the day-to-day interaction within the Palestinian community. The main character is the father of E.S. (helmer Suleiman), a filmmaker living in Jerusalem, and the old curmudgeon (Nayef Fahoum Daher) has a bitter attitude about people, without regard to religion or politics - he dislikes everyone equally. When the old man falls ill, E.S. must, reluctantly, make the journey to visit and care for his father. During this portion we meet all kinds of people in all shapes and sizes, most of who are in one kind of feud or another with his neighbors. This part is the most mirthful and often brings a smile with its vignettes of absurdist whimsy - with definite political and religious points nicely made by the filmmaker.
"Part 2 moves to an Israeli checkpoint between a Jewish sector of Jerusalem and the neighboring Palestinian section of Ramallah. The day-in, day-out routine, mostly boring though sometimes tense, of the soldiers manning the station is observed from the parking lot by E.S. and his Palestinian lover called, only, the woman (Manal Khader). One lives on the Jewish side and the other on the Palestinian, and the lot is the only place the star-crosses couple can meet. They are both spectators and, because of the forced separation, participants in the drama of modern day Israel. This is the meatiest part of "Divine Intervention" and has the strongest political statement that is both radical and thoughtful.
"The last part is, essentially, a political statement that looks an awful lot like an MTV video with guns. A squad of strapping Israeli soldiers trains on the shooting range. Their targets are all the same: the image a kaffiyeh-shrouded woman wielding a knife. As the troopers blast away at their enemy, in a choreographed sequence that would make Lars Von Triers proud (think DANCER IN THE DARK) the woman (Khader, again) materializes, dodging and juggling the bullets fired at her as she smites those who would want to vanquish her. It's a stunning combination of startling images, nicely done choreography, special F/X, Middle Eastern music and a strong political statement on Palestine.
"Overall, Elia Suleiman has composed the film like a classical piece of music. It is a series of three movements, starting light and whimsical then moving to more serious issues and on to a big, flashy finale. He does this (except in the music vid finish) using a series of vignettes that culminate in an extended sequence with the red balloon floating over the holy city to settle, finally, on the Al Aska mosque on the Temple Mount - a metaphor for the rights of the Palestinians to self-rule and self-destiny. This is powerful stuff wrapped in a package that is geared for both sheer enjoyment and as food for thought. Visually, Suleiman uses static cameras, mostly in crisply focused long shots to force the eye to pay attention - there is often much happening but you need to pay attention to appreciate the subtlety of the filmmaker. Closer up shots are used when necessary, as when the woman struts, regally, straight through the checkpoint as if it and its guards were not even there as the soldiers stare, gape-jawed and helpless, at the beauty.
"Don't expect a conventional linear story or plot in DIVINE INTERVENTION. It is more like a rapid-fire series of comments and observations about the life of Palestinians in Israel today. It does not preach and uses humor to educate. Elia Suleiman is an international filmmaking talent to watch. His style reminds me, strongly, of Jacques Tati, using the eye more than the ear to tell his story. The light whimsy of Part 1 opens the mind to be susceptible for the more poignant second part. And, you get a cool video, too." 4 1/2 cats