January 22, 2004
Silver Screen Propaganda
Largely unnoticed, Palestinian filmmakers have lately been turning out a respectable number of movies. In the process, they have proven themselves more skilled propagandists than their Israeli counterparts, whose works tend to be personalized escapist fares or highly self-critical of their society.
"Divine Intervention," which has received the most attention and favorable reviews of recent Palestinian films, is actually the work of Israeli Arab Elia Suleiman, who directed, wrote and starred in the film.
Though surrealistic and moving at a glacial pace for long stretches, the film skillfully scores its points by portraying life as an absurdist comedy, rather than a litany of blood-curling horrors.
A similar tack is followed by "Rana's Wedding," in which the heroine overcomes parental opposition, red tape and Israeli roadblocks (a central symbolism of Palestinian films) to get her man.
Among other recent Palestinian films, "Ticket to Jerusalem," described by The New York Times as "a small, rueful comedy" characterized by "melancholy humor," chronicles the efforts of a glum, middle-aged Arab to show films to children in the towns and refugee camps of the West Bank.
In the documentary, "Paradise Lost," director Ebtisam Mara'ana returns to the childhood village she left in 1948.
Two earlier films of the 1980s by Michel Khleifi have just been released on DVDs. "Wedding in Galilee" and "Fertile Memory" both look at life in Israel from a jaundiced Arab perspective."