This film is challenging. On the surface it can simply be viewed as comedy or as political commentary. It is strongest when combined. On the surface, this film is a linear but decade hoping semi autobiographical film of the writer director Elia Suleiman.
Prior to World War II the state of Israel didn’t exist, it was carved out of lands with an uncertain status. Jews and Arabs have historically lived in that area but in 1948 the United Nations declared the area to be the country of Israel. Some Arabs left and many stayed, this is a story about the Suleiman family that stayed.
Suleiman’s storytelling approach is unorthodox. He drew the stories from the diaries and letters of his family and his own memories. Split up into four segments, it recounts his father’s days as a freedom fighter, family when he was an elementary, as a teenager who is forced out of the country, and as a returning mature man to take care of his aging mother.
This situation is far too complex and honestly probably too boring to explain linearly or traditionally. If it didn’t actually happen, you would think the situation bizarre. One day you’re living your life as a Palestinian in Palestine and the next you’ve become a foreigner in the state of Israel. The resentment would never be gone from anyone’s memory and that’s why the conflict in the Middle East is about. You can’t expect people to suddenly become Israelis. History has shown that occupiers must destroy the natives; otherwise it will take centuries and not decades to assimilate.
The visuals are incredibly strong in this film. It’s quietly funny which relies on carefully composed wide shots. There aren’t any punch lines, just situations where you can only shake your head or laugh. It works most of the time, especially in the first three-quarters of the movie. The last quarter becomes more personal and poignant. The subject is an important one and the film almost elevates itself from being a good to great film. Unfortunately the least effective part of the movie were the ones where Suleiman plays himself in the present day.
I couldn’t determine what country this film is from. On the official production notes this film is from the UK, France, Belgium and Germany. The money certainly hails from there but does the film? I want to classify it as Palestine but that would be like stating a film from Turkey is from the Ottoman Empire. Palestine for now does not exist and it would certainly be wrong to name it from Israel. For now, it’ll officially hail from nowhere, which seems appropriate for the subject matter.
Do not expect this film in this US trailer:
Expect this film. The US version makes it seem like an upbeat disco party. The film you’ll see is slow paced and deliberate: