THE BITTER and bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, you would imagine, hardly the subject for satire. Palestinian film-maker Elia Suleiman has achieved the impossible with his latest film Divine Interventions. It presents a funny and profound look at the situation.
The film follows a series of interrelated characters as they struggle to maintain a veneer of normal life in Nazareth. It shows the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in painfully human terms.
While caring for his ailing father in Jerusalem, Suleiman tries to maintain a love affair with a Palestinian woman living in Ramallah. She is barred from crossing the Israeli army checkpoint between the two cities. The lovers' intimate moments take place in a deserted lot beside the checkpoint. From here they watch the daily hostilities played out between Israeli troops and Palestinian civilians.
Divine Interventions is a topical and thought-provoking film. Suleiman took great delight in blowing up an Israeli tank-even though it was a French tank painted to look like an Israeli one.'I was the chief of operations on the set,' says Suleiman. 'It was I who gave the orders and it was I who did the countdown for the explosion and said 'Action', which in this case was rendered 'Fire'.'
The film unfolds with a series of fantasy sequences and sight gags that depict the absurd and perverse manifestations of the conflict in everyday events and jealousies. Suleiman brings a surreal sense of humour to satirise the tragic situation of the Palestinians.
A good example is when Suleiman releases a balloon with the image of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over Jerusalem. The balloon glides over the city to the amazement of a group of Israeli soldiers and comes to rest on the Dome of the Rock, one of Jerusalem's major buildings and one of the holiest sites in Islam.