Elia Suleiman

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Elia Suleiman
Born (1960-07-28) July 28, 1960 (age 59)
Occupationdirector, actor
Years active1990–present
Spouse(s)Yasmine Hamdan

Elia Suleiman (Arabic: إيليا سليمان‎, IPA: [ˈʔiːlja sʊleːˈmaːn]; born July 28, 1960) is a Palestinian-Israeli film director and actor of Rûm Greek Orthodox origin.[1] He is best known for the 2002 film Divine Intervention (Arabic: يد إلهية‎), a modern tragic comedy on living under occupation in Palestine which won the Jury Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Elia Suleiman's cinematic style is often compared to that of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton, for its poetic interplay between "burlesque and sobriety".[2] He is married to Lebanese singer and actress Yasmine Hamdan.

Life and career[edit]

Early work[edit]

Between 1982–1993, Suleiman lived in New York City, where he co-directed: Introduction to the End of an Argument (1990) and directed Homage by Assassination, that both won numerous awards.

An experimental video film, co-directed by Jayce Sallou, Introduction to the End of an Argument critiqued the portrayal of Arabs in Western media and its effect on foreign policy by juxtaposing clips from Hollywood films, television broadcasts and cartoons with live scenes (shot by Salloum) from the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.[3]

Homage by Assassination is a "diary film" that critiques the 1991 Gulf War via the juxtaposition of multilayered personal anecdotes and identity. The film offers a lucid portrait of what Ella Shohat and Robert Stam have termed "cultural disembodiment," manifested in "multiple failures of communication," that reflect the contradictions of a "diasporic subject."[4]

Pedagogical work[edit]

In 1994, Suleiman moved to Jerusalem and began teaching at Birzeit University in the West Bank. He was entrusted with the task of developing a Film and Media Department at the university with funding support from the European Commission.[2] In 2008 Elia Suleiman became a professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee.[1] He continues to guest lecture in other universities around the world.

Feature films[edit]

In 1996, Suleiman directed Chronicle of a Disappearance, his first feature film. It won the Best First Film Prize at the 1996 Venice Film Festival.[2]

In 2002, Suleiman's second feature film, Divine Intervention, subtitled, A Chronicle of Love and Pain, won the Jury Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival[5] and the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI), also receiving the Best Foreign Film Prize at the European Awards in Rome.[6]

His latest film is called The Time That Remains, which competed in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Suleiman won the Black Pearl prize for best Middle Eastern narrative film at the Middle Eastern Film Festival in Abu Dhabi on October 17, 2009.[7] The film won the Critics' Prize from the Argentinean Film Critics Association at Mar del Plata International Film Festival.

Other film work[edit]

In his 1998 film, The Arab Dream ("Al Hilm Al-Arabi") Suleiman autobiographically explores issues of identity, expressing that: "I don't have a homeland to say I live in exile... I live in postmortem... daily life, daily death."[8] Suleiman also produced a short film in 1997, entitled War and Peace in Vesoul.[3]

In 2000, Suleiman released the 15-minute short film "Cyber Palestine" which follows a modern-day Mary and Joseph as they attempt to cross from Gaza into Bethlehem.[9] Suleiman was part of the nine person jury for the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.[10]


Feature films[edit]

Short films[edit]

  • "Homage by Assassination" (1993), The Gulf War... What Next?
  • "The Arab Dream" (1998)
  • "Cyber Palestine" (2000)
  • "Awkward" (2007), To Each His Own Cinema
  • "Diary of a Beginner" (2012), 7 Days in Havana

Documentary films[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Elia Suleiman Faculty Page at European Graduate School. (Biography, bibliography, photos and video lectures)". European Graduate School. Archived from the original on August 22, 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Elia Suleiman". Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original on March 22, 2005.
  3. ^ a b Farsoun, Samih K. (2004). Culture and Customs of the Palestinians. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-32051-9, ISBN 978-0-313-32051-4. 2004, p. 120.
  4. ^ Richard Porton. "Notes from the Palestinian Diaspora: an interview with Elia Suleiman". Cineaste.
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Divine Intervention". festival-cannes.com. Archived from the original on August 22, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
  6. ^ Ron Holloway (Fall 2002). "Cannes 2002: Special Report". Kinema. Archived from the original on December 13, 2006.
  7. ^ Ali Jaafar (October 19, 2009). "'Hipsters' nabs Black Pearl award: Middle East Film Festival hands out $1 million". Variety. Retrieved December 14, 2009.
  8. ^ Amina Elbendary (May 2–8, 2002). "Passion Shared". Al-Ahram Weekly. Archived from the original on November 26, 2006.
  9. ^ "Cyber Palestine (2000): Movie Details". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on August 27, 2006.
  10. ^ Iram Mirza (May 19, 2006). "Tough task for Cannes jury". IBN-CNN. Retrieved January 19, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tanya Shilina-Conte, "Imaginal Border Crossings and Silence as Negative Mimesis in Elia Suleiman's Divine Intervention." In Border Visions: Identity and Diaspora in Film, edited by Jakub Kazecki, Karen A. Ritzenhoff, Cynthia J. Miller. Scarecrow Press, 2013, p. 3-21, ISBN 9780810890510.
  • Refqa Abu-Remaileh, “Elia Suleiman: Narrating Negative Space” in: Josef Gugler (ed.), Ten Arab Filmmakers: Political Dissent and Social Critique, Indiana University Press, 2015, ISBN 978-0-253-01644-7, pp. 76-97
  • Gertz, Nurith; Khleifi, George (2008): Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma, and Memory, Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-22007-6. Chapter 7: Between exile and Homeland: The Films of Elia Suleiman (p. 171 -189)
  • Provan, Alexander (February 2007). "Requesting Permission to Narrate: Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema". Stop Smiling Magazine. Missing or empty |url= (help)

External links[edit]