On Monday I caught a late-night screening of what turned out to be one of the gems of the festival – of course there were some big films of considerable repute but among the relatively lesser-known ones. Elia Suleiman’s ‘It Must Be Heaven’ took the cake. Suleiman is a well-known filmmaker from Palestine who has made a mark in world cinema with films like ‘Divine Intervention’ (2002), ‘The Time That Remains’ (2009) and this film comes after a decade of his previous endeavour.
If Jacques Tati and Swedish auteur Roy Andersson were to collaborate on a film, the result would be something similar to ‘It Must Be Heaven’. That is not to take anything away from Suleiman who has his own stamp, like his previous films. Quirky, profound, witty, hilarious – it is all that and more in the 90 odd minutes of its running time. Suleiman plays himself modelled pretty much on Monsieur Hulot – the comedian though didn’t have to deal with sensitive issues like the Middle East and Palestine. It is also refreshing to see a lightweight approach to the subject even though it is so close to the filmmaker’s heart. In fact, in the end credits, the film is dedicated to Palestine.
The opening scene sets the tone of the rest of the film – a rabbi has to forcefully kick open the door of a church, which was very symbolic of what happened in that part of the world.
The first episode takes place in Nazareth – a neighbour who steals fruits (and also prunes the plant), a couple of cops look on as a drunkard goes berserk. The scene then shifts to Paris – with Nina Simone’s ‘I Put A Spell On You’ as Suleiman admires the beauties in Paris. After that scene, Paris looks rather deserted – there is not a single soul in sight in that shot at the Louvre pyramid, at the famous museum. In a smartly choreographed sequence, cops move around on Segways, like a dance. Suleiman is in Paris to look for funding for his film and a meeting with a potential producer is rather hilarious – turns out his film is not Palestinian enough and hence the financers are not interested.
That takes him to the next destination, New York – the choice of the soundtrack is interesting – when he drives in New York (shot in Montreal, passed off as NY), and the haunting instrumental track ‘Offering’ by Ravi Shankar and Phillip Glass plays in the background. A scene in Central Park where cops chase an ‘angel’ with a Palestinian flag was superbly executed. In another scene, everyone is seen carrying and showing off their guns – from an AK47 to a rocket launcher – those images say everything about the silly gun culture in America.
During another meeting with a producer, he bumps across Gael Garcia Bernal who plays himself. Their conversation in the waiting lounge was similar to the one in Tati’s ‘Playtime’ (1967). While talking to the producer, about the film Bernal says “It’s a comedy about peace in the Middle East.” “That’s already funny,” comes the response.
The Colombian film ‘Monos’ also turned out to be an intense film that reminded of the Herzog classic, ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’ (1972). A bunch of youngsters are guarding the Monos on a very remote mountain surrounded by a forest, where they have a lady who is captive. Directed by Alejandro Landes whose ‘Porfirio’ (2011) won in the competition section at IFFI, this is an unsettling and intriguing film.