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Suleiman’s Palestinian Story, More Personal Than Political

Suleiman's Palestinian Story, More Personal Than Political

Meeting the media today at the Cannes Film Festival, filmmaker Elia Suleiman was first asked to simply explain the title of his new, personal movie, “The Time That Remains.”

“It’s not very simple, in fact, the answer,” Suleiman began this afternoon in Cannes, “‘The Time That Remains’ is linked to the narrative of the film, linked to the narrative of the global situation that we live in. It is linked to the very personal story that the film tells.”

Suleiman’s latest, like his Cannes award winner “Divine Intervention” (2002) and Venice fest prize-winner “Chronicle of a Disappearance” (1996), offers a window into a broader situation from a private vantage point. Told with brightly colored imagery, using static shots to frame the scenes, Suleiman’s compelling new work – received quite warmly with an extended applause at a press screening here – evokes that of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton. Suleiman plays himself in his movies. But, such comparisons are coincidental, the filmmaker reiterated today.

He said he never watched Tati or Keaton before making his first film, yet he admits seeing a resemblance when he watches his own movies as a viewer. “In this big world [with] so many people doing art and film it’s bound to happen.”

Elia Suleiman’s “The Time That Remains.” Image courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival.

Considered semi-biographical, the movie looks at Suleiman’s family dating back to 1948, created using Suleiman’s father’s diaries and his mother’s letters to family. It tells their story, Suleiman noted, hoping to offer a look at the daily lives of Palestinians.

“The [title] of this film is a political term that describes the Palestinians who remain on their own land, who are insiders and absentees, while they remain on their own land,” Suleiman continued, “It’s a very political term which I appropriated…from my personal context being present and absent, someone who is an outsider and an insider, someone who does not live in one place but always departs.”

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