divine intervention (2002)


director: elia suleiman

elia suleiman, manal khader, nayef fahoum daher

Thereís a deep rage and an abiding sadness at the heart of Elia Suleimanís Divine Intervention, but at first itís hard to see anything behind what seems, at first, like an absurd, almost plotless story set in a quiet but edgy Nazareth neighbourhood.

Suleiman makes an audacious start to his film, almost entirely skirting the filmís overwhelming context - the ongoing civil war between Israel and Palestine - in favor of a portrait of an aging suburb where the inhabitants - mostly men, mostly middle-aged - taunt each other almost constantly with petty bickering. As itís been pointed out by many reviewers, this part of the movie recalls the absurd, rambling films of Jacques Tati, but with a nagging, menacing undertone.

It feels like violence could erupt at any moment, as neighbours provoke each other by undoing road repairs and flinging garbage into each otherís gardens. One old man, quietly losing his welding business, suddenly has a heart attack, and the scene shifts to Jerusalem, where his son, played by the director, lives and visits him in the hospital.

The son, whoís having an affair with a woman from Ramallah, can only meet his girlfriend in an empty lot overlooking an Israeli checkpoint, where they watch soldiers humiliate Palestinians passing through. While their lives hover in stasis, they both fantasize about resisting and rebelling, in a series of increasingly audacious, hilarious fantasy sequences. One phrase keeps recurring, as a grafitti, a message on a post-it, and as a title for one of the filmís sequences: ďIím crazy because I love you.Ē

Suleiman lets these words float over everything in his almost silent film, making you wonder whoís crazy - the Palestinians, the Israelis, or both - and just who loves whom. The ambiguity is inspired, and beautifully undercuts what might have just been a poetic protest message. His film is a remarkable message from a frequently ignored segment of the Israeli and Palestinian people, whose wish for a return to normalcy and a life we take for granted here is, as far as they can see, being buried by both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat.