Elia Suleiman: seriously absurd

Elia Suleiman: sérieusement absurde

Elia Suleiman: sérieusement absurde

The director of the palestinian Elia Suleiman.


June 11, 2020

Updated on June 12, 2020 at 4h22


Elia Suleiman: seriously absurd

Elia Suleiman: sérieusement absurde

Elia Suleiman: sérieusement absurde

Eric Moreault

The Sun

CANNES, Elia Suleiman is a case. And not just as a filmmaker. Born in Nazareth, a christian arab israeli considers himself a Palestinian. Of course, his work bears witness to that. Divine Intervention, jury Prize at Cannes in 2002, is meant to be an ironic critique of the absurdity of the geopolitical situation in Palestine. Then it was back on the Croisette last year, The Sun spoke with the 59 year old man in the aftermath of the first world That is the paradise? (It Must Be Heaven).

The artist is tired after celebrating until 5am, but lends itself especially voluntarily in the game of the interview, even if it cabotine a bit, that ten years separate this new comedy of the Time that’s left. He doesn’t know it yet, but his work will allow him to leave with a special mention of the jury and the international critics ‘ prize.

But for now, he enjoys more the fact of having seen his film, “on a very big screen”, the Theatre of Light, that the standing ovation of 10 minutes that it has for him. “When I entered, I was very emotional. In the end, it was very sincere and enthusiastic, but I was wondering when it would end, before the people to have sore hands…”

This feature film, and the previous ones, bring their share of comparisons to Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati, because of his sense of humor physically absurd. The developer disclaims any influence, even if he loves their movies.

“I can see excerpts from Tati a thousand times and smile even at the end. I started to make films that approached it before knowing who they were. In this world with billion people, it is normal to find physical and sensibilities are similar. It does not surprise me that I can use gestures to Keaton or stylistic effects to the Tati.”

Elia Suleiman reveals that his desire of cinema takes its source in the work of Yasujirō Ozu (1903-1963), japanese director, and Robert Bresson (1901-1999), Costa-Gavras… there is no similarity in aesthetic with its body, “but they have given me the confidence to launch myself. We are also influenced by our life experiences and our readings. Books that do not have the same tone as my work, but the sum of these influences that are mixed in your subconscious mind influence your way of narrating and see. Your personality also plays a major role in your way of expressing yourself.”

Elia Suleiman: sérieusement absurde

The scenes show us a Paris emptied of its inhabitants, and usual tourists, as at the time of the pandemic.


Filming in Montreal

The peculiarity of It is that the paradise? lies in its aspect autofictionnel. Elia Suleiman plays his own role, that of a director palestinian who seeks to finance his films by way of Paris and New York — places he inhabited, which allows him to avoid the tourist clichés, avance-t-il.

The feature relies on quebec roots, since the american was filmed in Montreal. Jeremy Peter Allen, filmmaker of the capital, was the second director on that segment. “It was wonderful,” recalls Suleiman. I imagined that I could live there if it weren’t for the winter (laughs).”

The shooting was not an easy task for all. Since the metropolis had to have the air of the Big apple, “he had to avoid several elements. It was difficult for me to adjust to the different rules of the union. When you do a film, you need freedom. With all of this institutional structure, it is problematic. For example, as a developer, you can discuss it with the extras because their stamp is going to increase. For me, it is an insult to those people who are treated like slaves, sort of. It is a question of ethics. I refused to me to fold.”

Elia Suleiman believes that this type of framework may prove to be very harmful for young filmmakers. “To impose such restrictions is counterproductive to the liberation of minds.”

In spite of everything, “I would do it again. And if I go back, Montreal will play Montreal. It will be easier. And now that I have the experience of the laws and regulations in force, I will be able to negotiate accordingly. But I should add that I had a great team. If I could, I would have brought some in my luggage. These are experienced technicians, and when they arrive on a film that comes out of the tags, they are passionate and want to give everything they have.”

Paris as seen during the COVID

Elia Suleiman was prescient when he turned to Paris, emptied of its inhabitants and tourists, as at the height of the pandemic? Of course not. “I wanted to put the town in the nude to show this is not going to.” But also what could look like a such a city if there was a containment imposed due to rules of counter-terrorism.

“It is akin to a war zone. And when you get the hell out of the scene for a moment, you are posing a new look on the beauty of the place.”

The filmmaker has no intention to stop typing on the nail the palestinians in the future “as long as the situation will remain what it is”. If you can find the funding to turn. Some of the realities exposed in This is that the paradise? are more real than others…

Le Soleil

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