The Time That Remains
By Priscilla Eyles
Out on DVD this month, director-writer Elia Suleiman's semi-autobiographical film-based on Suleiman's personal memories-examines the creation of the state of Israel from 1948, looking at the treatment of Palestinians by Israelis up till the present day. It does this through characters such as Suleiman's resistance fighter father Fuad (Saleh Bakri) as he struggles against Israeli oppression, and through Suleiman himself, who also plays himself; Suleiman acting as a comically deadpan silent observer on the tumultuous events that are happening around him, like a Palestinian Buster Keaton or Jacques Tati.
Anyone expecting a deadly serious historical-political film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will then be surprised (whether pleasantly or not is another question) to find that there s actually a large amount of humour in the film. This humour is clear from the beginning when we see a soldier on his way to 'liberate the Arabs' walking past a table of men and being told he is going the wrong way, only to be told he s going the wrong way again, when he walks in the other direction. Like Suleiman's previous feature Divine Intervention (2002), the film is full of these absurd Roy Andersson-like vignettes.
These vignettes are often used to highlight the absurdity of the ongoing conflict, so in one scene we see a tank's gun trained on a totally indifferent Palestinian as he talks animatedly about a party on his mobile. Sometimes these vignettes work, sometimes they don't. And there is certainly a weird disconnect between Fuad's (played with earnestness by Bakri) story as we see Palestinians dying around him, and Suleiman's entry which takes the film into classic silent comedy territory. But you certainly can't accuse Suleiman of being conventional.