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April 04, 2003 - Image 111

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Filmmaker Elia Suleiman in "Divine Intervention."

never submitted, and, therefore, was
neither considered nor rejected.
Suleiman's previous film, the semi-
autobiographical Chronicle of a
Disappearance, received substantial fund-
ing from the Israeli Fund for Quality
Film and was banned in Arab countries.
That film's final, and offending,
scene, which the 42-year-old director
said was misinterpreted, showed an
old Palestinian man sleeping in front
of a TV screen with an Israeli flag fly-
ing high to the strains of "Hatikvah,"
Israel's national anthem.
"I was termed a collaborator and a
Zionist," Suleiman recalled. "I was

booed in the screening room and
tabooed in the Arab world."
In an earlier interview, Suleiman, who
now makes his home in Paris and
Jerusalem, had this to say about his
work: "My films are first an expression of
who I am — a little distant, a little alien-
ated, very sad. And, at the same time,
very humorous. Very Jewish, really." ❑

bors. They toss garbage into each
other's yards and vandalize each other's
cars, funneling their seething resent-
ment of the Israelis toward each other.
Suleiman pulls no punches in
depicting the impotence of Israeli
Arabs. At the same time, the only
Israelis with whom we see Arabs inter-
acting are soldiers, police or settlers —
that is, the symbols of an occupying
force. The Israelis, in turn, are depict-
ed as alternately bumbling and abu-
sive, arbitrary yet themselves afraid.
The ongoing suffering in the
Middle East readily lends itself to
polemics, of course. But thanks to
Suleiman's gifts as a satirist, his zeal
for absurdity and his recognition of
the situation's complexity, Divine
Intervention easily transcends propa-
ganda into the realm of art.
The soundtrack, meanwhile, pulses
with a female singer's Middle Eastern-
inflected rendition of the ominous

Screamin' Jay Hawkins classic "I Put a
Spell On You."
The joke is that Suleiman's passive
character only imagines himself as an
intimidating figure. But the sequence
also plays like a veiled threat — that
is, if you are unaware that the singer,
Natasha Atlas, is an Algerian Jew.
For all its deadpan humor and witty
sight gags, however, Divine
Intervention is a button-pusher for
American Jews concerned about
Israel's future.
When an intellectual and a moder-
ate like Suleiman is as angry, frustrated
and hopeless as the average Palestinian
on the street, it is worrisome indeed.
It is preposterous, of course, to
count on divine intervention to save
the pressure cooker. But, Suleiman
confronts us, how is that any more
ridiculous than relying on the men
who have bungled the job so badly up
`61 now?

Restaurant

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to the following Jewish News readers
who most accurately picked the
winners in our Oscar contest.

Divine Intervention: A Chronicle of
Love and Pain is scheduled to open
Friday, April 4, at Landmark's
Maple Art Theatre in Bloomfield
Township. (248) 542-0180.

itills. wilt rece
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Prizes courtesy of

mi

Laurie Blum of Farmington
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Dorothy Deitch of Southfield
Cindy Reed Norman of Bloomfield Hies

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87

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