‘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!


Iraq Pavilion at Venice Biennale shuts in solidarity with protesters

The Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down in solidarity with protesters. Supplied
Updated 13 November 2019

Iraq Pavilion at Venice Biennale shuts in solidarity with protesters

  • In a show of solidarity with anti-government protestors, the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down
  • Initially set to run until Nov. 24, the exhibition entitled “Fatherland” was closed on Nov. 5.

DUBAI: Iraq is currently in the midst of ongoing anti-government protests that have claimed the lives of more than 260 Iraqis since they erupted earlier this month. In a show of solidarity, the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down.

Initially set to run until Nov. 24, the exhibition entitled “Fatherland” was closed on Nov. 5.

“Fatherland” is a collection of expressionist paintings by Iraqi-Kurdish artist Serwan Baran that were commissioned by Baghdad-based non-profit organization the Ruya Foundation, which in an official statement shared that the move was to show support to “the popular youth uprisings that have erupted in Iraq against state corruption and deteriorating economic and living conditions.”

“We condemn the use of violence against peaceful protesting, and the bloodshed that has led to the death of over 265 protesters so far,” read the statement shared on the organization’s Twitter account. “Peaceful protesting is a basic right, enshrined in Article 38.c of the Iraqi Constitution.”

“Since our founding in late 2012, we have worked hard, frequently in inhospitable circumstances, to create a platform for artists across Iraq to freely express their creativity, in a firm belief that culture is an integral component of any society, and a powerful force for change towards an open and free country. This is particularly important for Iraq, given its difficult recent history and authoritarian past,” it continued.

The Baghdad-based foundation, which was co-founded by Tamara Chalabi, daughter of former Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, has overseen the Iraq Pavilion in Venice since 2013.