What it’s about:
A semi-biographic film of how the Palestinian, Christian Sleiman family’s life changes in 1948, the day of the creation of the State of Israel, and the effect this historic event has had on them from that point until recent times (the film was released in 2009).
The film begins with Elia Suleiman (played by the actual director of the film) setting out to the airport after visiting his family home in Nazareth. Once in the taxi, he is caught in a severe thunderstorm that forces the taxi driver to park up. Enveloped in the car’s claustrophobic atmosphere, the memories resurface as the Israeli taxi driver repeats over and over again ‘what is this place?’ and ‘How do I get home?’
The memories transport the viewer to the day when the State of Israel was created in 1948. Most of the Suleiman family is packing up a few belongings to take with them to Jordan for a short visit, in the belief that they will be back once things have settled down. The young Fouad Suleiman, (the director's father) is a resistance fighter. He is captured by the Israelis, beaten up and left for dead. He survives, marries and has son (director Elia Suleiman) and the film is a documentary of the events of his life since then.
Why watch it:
This is an award winning film by Palestinian film director and actor Elia Suleiman who based his film on original diaries left to him by his late father Fouad as well as his late mother’s letters that she wrote to the family in Jordan who were never to set foot back in to Palestine. The director also relies on his memory living in Nazareth as an Arab-Israeli, a minority of Palestinians who stayed behind after Israel declared its state and who later accepted Israeli citizenship.
The best word I can find that best describes this film is ‘haunting’. It is strange in that I also found it turbulent (although there was hardly any violence), loud (although it was very low-key in its music and dialogue was kept to a bare minimum), and very emotional (although no outbursts of emotions were present).
It is a very lovely film, shot in 4 separate parts. The style is not one familiar of the region, and the closest I personally have watched of the style is an Armenian film shown at last year's Abu Dhabi Film Festival entitled 'The Color of Pomegranates' by director Sergei Parajanov.
And you know what? Just watch it for the actor Saleh Bakri, who plays Fouad Suleiman in the film. He is a formidable actor who has been likened as the Middle East's lookalike of Cary Grant or even Clark Gable. He will be appearing in the soon-to-be released film 'Zinzana'.
Here’s what the critics in The Guardian and The New York Times thought of the film.
The film is available at Virgin Megastore in Abu Dhabi and on itunes.