‘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!


Iconic Algerian raï singer Cheikha Rimitti gets square named after her in Paris

Cheikha Rimitti gets square named after her in Paris. (File/Getty Images)
Updated 17 November 2019

Iconic Algerian raï singer Cheikha Rimitti gets square named after her in Paris

  • Earlier this week, the Council of Paris designated an area of the French capital's 18th arrondissement to honor iconic raï singer Cheikha Rimitti
  • The square bears the name of the late singer

DUBAI: Earlier this week, the Council of Paris designated an area of the French capital's 18th arrondissement to honor the late iconic raï singer Cheikha Rimitti. Situated between Rue de la Goutte d'Or and Polonceau, the square bears the name of the Algerian musical pioneer.

Often called the “grandma of raï music,” Rimitti was born Saadia El-Ghizania to a impoverished family near Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria, in 1923.

After being orphaned during childhood, she went on to join a troupe of traditional Algerian musicians and sang and danced at weddings and celebrations around West Algeria before moving to the rural town of Relizane and writing her own songs.

During her decades-long career, she composed more than 200 songs that tackled themes of colonialism, poverty and immigration that have inspired some of today’s most celebrated raï singers, including Cheb Khaled and Rachid Taha.

She moved to Paris in 1978, where her music went on to garner international recognition. In addition to performing in sold-out tours in major cities across the world, she also collaborated with Robert Fripp and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The iconic singer died in Paris in 2006 at the age of 83 from a heart attack, just two days after performing at the Zenith.