Palestinian director Elia Suleiman is in every scene of his movie It Must Be Heaven, but he speaks only one line of dialogue.
Likened to a modern-day Buster Keaton, Suleiman quietly observes the absurdities of the world around him and responds with a cockeyed look or quick double-take that speaks louder than words. As one reviewer said, the movie is visually so loaded with meaning that it renders words useless.
Suleiman is an artist disenchanted with life in Palestine. In his film he plays himself, travelling to Paris and New York, perhaps to re-locate, and to hopefully secure funding for his latest film. His first impressions are picture-postcard versions of the cities, but as he spends more time there, he finds they are as alienating, oppressive and complex as his home. He discovers that “…we all now live in a kind of global Palestine, where arbitrary displays of power, threats of violence and lost people in search of meaning and identity are the new normal,” explains Lee Marshall of Screendaily.
Suleiman’s gift is his inventive ability to convey this uneasiness in the lightest of terms, making each scene an amusing encounter between his silent, panama-hatted self and the oddities around him. The imaginative film consists of vignettes of ordinary encounters and surreal scenes, most of which feature deadpan or slapstick comedy, but there’s metaphor and meaning, too. Through his observations of small wonders and incongruities, he offers a meditative look at questions of home, identity and belonging.
It Must Be Heaven shows at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Salmar Classic Cinema. And don’t forget our week-long 13-film International Film Festival starts Friday, Feb. 21.