Palestinian student film ‘Ambiance’ honored at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival

Jury and Award Winners of the Cinéfondation 2019. (Supplied)
Updated 24 May 2019

Palestinian student film ‘Ambiance’ honored at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival

  • The film is directed by Wisam al-Jafari of Palestine’s Dar Al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture
  • It follows the story of two young Palestinians trying to record a music demo inside a noisy refugee camp

DUBAI: Palestinian film “Ambiance” headed into a podium finish at the 22nd Cinéfondation Selection, the Cannes Film Festival’s top film school shorts awards, beating out more than 2,000 submissions.

The film, which is directed by Wisam al-Jafari of Palestine’s Dar Al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, landed third place with Polish entry “Duszyczka” by Barbara Rupik.

Praised for its “humor, coolness, and extraordinary use of cinema and sound,” the short film follows the story of two young Palestinians trying to record a music demo inside a noisy refugee camp.

The top prize was handed to “Mano a Mano” by Louise Courvoisier from France, followed by “Hieu” by Richard Van from the US.

The award was presented on Thursday by a jury headed by French director Claire Denis. Cash grants of up to $16,760 were given to the winners.

Aimed at supporting new and emerging talent in filmmaking, the Cinéfondation Selection chooses fifteen to twenty short and medium-length films each year from film schools all around the world.


‘It Must Be Heaven’: Elia Suleiman’s sardonic take on the world

Suleiman, who plays the lead role as himself, explores identity, nationality and belonging. (Supplied)
Updated 23 October 2019

‘It Must Be Heaven’: Elia Suleiman’s sardonic take on the world

MUMBAI: Elia Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven,” which was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival, is pure cinema. Like his earlier works, here too the Palestinian director uses wit, sarcasm and minimalism, this time to present a series of vignettes that are funny but also a powerful lambast of the world we live in. Suleiman, who plays the lead role as himself, explores identity, nationality and belonging.

He says people worldwide now live in fear amid global geopolitical tensions. Today, checkpoints are just about everywhere: In airports, shopping malls, cinemas, highways — the list is endless.

“It Must Be Heaven” was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival. (Supplied) 

Suleiman’s earlier features, such as “Chronicle of a Disappearance” and “Divine Intervention,” showed us everyday life in the occupied Palestinian territories. This time, it is Paris and New York. 

The first scene is hilarious, with a bishop trying to enter a church with his followers. The gatekeeper on the other side of the heavy wooden door is probably too intoxicated and refuses to let the priest in, leading to a comical situation. Suleiman’s life in Nazareth is filled with such incidents — snippets that have been strung together to tell us of tension in society. Neighbors turn out to be selfish, and only generous when they know they are being watched. 

The Palestinian director uses wit, sarcasm and minimalism, to present a series of vignettes that are funny but also a powerful lambast of the world we live in. (Supplied)

In Paris, the cafes along the grand boulevards, and the young women who pass by, are typical of France’s capital. But a cut to Bastille Day, with tanks rolling by in a show of strength, jolts us back to harsh reality. In New York, Suleiman’s cab driver is excited at driving a Palestinian. 

The film has an interesting way of storytelling. The scenes begin as observational shots, but the camera quickly changes positions to show Suleiman watching from the other side of the room or a street. The camera then returns to where it first stood, and this back-and-forth movement is delightfully engaging.

The framing is so perfect, and the colors so bright and beautiful, that each scene looks magical. And as the director looks on at all this with his usual deadpan expression, a sardonic twitch at the corner of his mouth, we know all this is but illusion. There is bitter truth ahead!