Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Time that Remains

Ironic title as I am currently obsessed with ‘the time that remains’ before the Over the Bridge Festival and the Wild Goose Festival and the “Assembly’. In this case, however, the title refers to a warning about the time that is remaining to us to turn things around in Palestine/Israel and the wider world.

The Time that Remains is another poetic and thought-provoking film by Elia Suleiman, the Palestinian filmmaker who wrote and directed Divine Intervention in 2002. It is a darkly funny epic tale chronicling the Israeli occupation of Palestine since 1948 through the telling of stories about Suleiman’s parents and grandparents. The film contains stories from 1948, 1970, 1980 and 2009. In the latter stories, Suleiman plays himself as a powerless observer who never utters a word or changes his facial expression. It all works brilliantly if you enjoy this kind of original filmmaking style as much as I do, but I suspect the average filmgoer would be bored to tears.

Suleiman employs mostly non-actors, which works because there is little dialogue in his films and it’s all about seeing the absurdity of daily life in oppressive situations, which is aided by the natural actions of non-actors. The cinematography is outstanding, which is vital to a film that relies on carefully-constructed framing to fuel the atmosphere.

The Time that Remains is a subtle cry for justice, not just for the Palestinian people but for all the world’s people who suffer from oppression and poverty. The use of humour diffuses the tension of such a cry without diluting the sting of its message. The film makes fun of Israeli people (especially soldiers) but not in an unkind way. And, as I mentioned, the Israeli people represent all those in the world who, blindly or knowingly, contribute to the suffering of others. There can never be too many good films which deal with issues of injustice.

The Time that Remains gets an easy ***+ and, because of its 2011 American release date, this 2009 film may even make my top ten of the year. My mug is up.

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