Yadon ilaheyya (Divine Intervention) (2002)

 

 

 

Director:     Elia Suleiman. 

Starring:     Elia Suleiman (E.S.),  Manal Khader (Woman),  George Ibrahim (Santa Clause),  Amer Daher (Auni),  Jamel Daher (Jamal),  Lufuf Nuweiser (Neighbor with American van),  Read Masarweh (Abu Basil),  Bassem Loulou (Abu Amer),   Salvia Nakkara (Adia),  Naaman Jarjoura (Uncle),  Rama Nashashibi (Um Elias),  Saiman Natour (Friend),  Fairos Hakim (Bus stop shopkeeper),  Khalil Jarjoura (Number 6 man),  Hamada Shamout (Basi).

a Palestinian man and woman are separated by hostile borders and have to find ways to meet

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

The movie is a little hard to understand without a little background information from the director.  In the DVD interview of Elia Suleiman, the director/author, says that he is attracted to absurdities.  And, apparently, in a people under occupation there are a lot of absurd things that happen  -- so absurd that Suleiman finds them funny in a black humor sort of way.  Nazareth is a ghetto where the people are claustrophobic and politically impotent and full of despair and frustration, says Suleiman.  They unleash this frustration on each other in ways that appear absurd to a more objective observer.  He is attracted to absurd, black humor so much that he has made a movie with a collection of some of the absurdities he has seen in Nazareth. 

Elia Suleiman meets with his girlfriend at a parking area near the Al-Ram checkpoint.  They are artificially separated from each other by the checkpoint and they have to use various tricks and ploys to get together.  From there they observe the behavior of the Israeli guards with their automatic weapons. 

The movie begins with a group of Palestinian youths chasing a man dressed as Santa Claus up a hill.  As he runs he starts losing all the packages in the basket he carries on his back.  The boys catch up with him at the top of the hill as Santa Claus runs out of energy.  He turns around to reveal that there is a big knife sticking out of his chest.  Santa falls down. 

Suleiman's father drives his car through a part of Nazareth.  A lot of people wave to him and he waves back, but to himself he curses each and every one of them in vivid language.  A shop keeper tells a fellow waiting at the bus stop near his shop that there is no bus.  An elderly, over-weight  neighbor is busy placing empty beer bottles on top of his roof.   He has more than a hundred bottles.  A car uses a ramp to get up to a house, but has to go very slowly because there is a big gash in the side of the ramp at the beginning.  The police arrive and head to the house of the man with all the beer bottles on the roof.  As they approach, the bottle man starts throwing his beer bottles one after another at one of the police officers.  This keeps the officer at bay.  The other policeman, however, sneaks up behind the bottle thrower and pins his arms behind him.  As the police take him toward their van, he starts having chest pains.  They place the man in the van and drive away. 

A woman is very busy cleaning up her large backyard.  A man takes out his garbage and throws it into a specific area that we can't see. 

Suleiman's father is busy welding.  A strange neighbor comes by.  He has an odd habit of using 6's in most of his sentences. 

The beer bottle man returns home.  He destroys the repairs made on the ramp by a construction crew. 

The shop keeper tells a man waiting at the nearby bus station that there is no bus.  The man simply says:  "I know." 

Another man pays his neighbor a visit to tell him that his car is blocking his garage:  "Can you move it?"  But the neighbor doesn't answer the question.  He just keeps asking inane questions about the car blocking the garage.  He finally asks:  "What's the license number?"  The fellow with the blocked garage gets so frustrated that he walks back to the offending car, rips off its license plate, shows and reads the number to the neighbor and then throws the plate onto the ground and walks away. 

We learn where the fellow is throwing his garbage.  He is throwing it into a neighbor's yard. 

Some kind of repo men are given the order to get moving.  They are supposed to get any valuables.  The men go to the house of Suleiman's father and start taking valuables for which the father has to sign. 

A young soccer player bounces his ball on his head so high that it lands on the roof of the bottle thrower.  The man comes onto the roof and grabs the ball.  He then punctures it flat with a large knife.  His final act is to throw the flattened ball back to the young fellow. 

Suleiman's father goes over to a neighbor's house and beats somebody up (off-screen).  He then calmly comes outside for a smoke. 

A car starts to go up the ramp and its left front wheel falls into the road gash that was supposed to have been all fixed up. 

The garbage thrower comes out of his house to investigate the sound of bags hitting the concrete surface outside his house.  It's the neighbor woman.  He protests that the neighbor woman is acting in a shameful way.  She answers back that he threw his garbage into her garden and she is just throwing it back.  The garbage thrower replies that she should have discussed the matter with him, rather than just taking action.  After all, neighbors should really respect their neighbors. 

The woman cleaning her backyard burns her gathered material. 

The shop keeper goes out to tell another man waiting at the bus station that there is no bus, but it is the man who already told him that he knows.  As the man returns to his shop, he sees a phrase written on his shop wall:  "I am crazy because I love you." 

The repo men are told to send Suleiman's father's welding machine to Kiryat Motzkin.  And the father's car will go straight to the auction. 

Three young men each with big sticks are viciously and violently beating somebody.  A fourth man arrives and fires three shots into this somebody.  But suddenly one of the men bends down and picks up not a someboyd, but a something, a large snake.  They pour gasoline on the snake and burn it.  

At the table in his home, Suleiman's father falls down. 

Suleiman is driving his car while eating an apricot.  He throws the pit at a tank along the side of the road and it explodes violently into pieces.  (This is probably just a wishful dream.)  He continues on to the hospital to see his father.  At the hospital we see that Santa Claus has survived and is in a wheel chair.  Suleiman visits his father. 

At the Al-Ram checkpoint a traffic jam has developed.  The Israeli guards become frustrated and angry and force all the cars to turn around at gun point.  All the cars leave except for one.  A gorgeous woman in a sexy outfit and sunglasses gets out of the car and starts walking to the checkpoint.  The guards soon become very aware of her presence.  Some of the guards start to point their weapons at her.  One of the men shouts "Go away!"  But she just keeps coming.  Now everyone is pointing their automatic weapons at her head .  She just pushes her sun glasses onto the top of her hair and walks right passed the guards.  They just watch her as she passes by and walks away from them.  As she passes, their guard house lookout crumbles to the ground.  (More wishful thinking?)  (The woman turns out to be Suleiman's girlfriend.)

Suleiman parks near the Al-Ram checkpoint.  The gorgeous woman gets into his car.  They hold hands.  They keep touching each other's hand in such strange ways that it appears that they are communicating with hand gestures because they don't say a word.  At night the two cars part, one going left and one going right. 

Suleiman visits his father.  There are now three men in one hospital room, including Santa Claus. 

At the checkpoint, a guard asks a man to get out of his van.  The guard asks where the man is going.  Suleiman and his girlfriend silently watch the action. 

At night a car stops by a house and someone throws a Molotov cocktail onto the house carport.  The home owner comes out as the car speeds away.  He puts the fire out with a fire extinguisher. 

In Jerusalem an English-speaking woman asks the policeman in a police van directions to the Holy Sepulcher.  He is not good at directions so he brings out a blindfolded prisoner to give the woman directions.  The directions seem to be ridiculously bad, but the woman goes away happy. 

Suleiman's father falls ill.  This is the post-it note that Suleiman picks out from his wall covered with posted notes.  (He probably is working on a screenplay.)  Suleiman goes out to the checkpoint to meet his girlfriend again.  Three Israeli soldiers get out of their vehicle and scrape off the bottom of their shoes. 

At the hospital, Santa Claus and then the man in the bed next to him get up to go smoke in a hall that appears to be a smoking hall because it is filled with smokers, including nurses.  The whole thing appears ridiculous because the hospital rooms open up onto this smoking area.  Suleiman goes to meet his girlfriend near the checkpoint. 

A car returns to the fire-bombed house and someone fires an automatic weapon through the house windows.  The car then speeds off. 

In Jerusalem the lost woman pedestrian returns to the police van to ask the policemen for different directions.  Again the police officer does not know the directions.  He goes to the back of his van to get his prisoner, but realizes that he is gone.  He runs and jumps into the driver's seat and speeds off leaving the woman to guess what happened.

Suleiman picks up a note on his wall that says:  "I am crazy because I love you."  Later when he meets his girlfriend at the checkpoint he rolls up his window to show her the note posted on it.  Suleiman has an idea that he thinks is funny and diverting.  He has a balloon on which is stamped the image of Palestinian leader Arafat.   He fills the balloon with helium from a can of helium, opens the sun roof and lets it go.  The balloon floats over to the guards.  The guards use their binoculars to see the balloon close-up and are perturbed when they see it is an image of Arafat.  They want to shoot it down, but are worried that it might not be permitted.  So one of the guards calls his superior and says:  "There's a balloon trying to get through."  While the guards are thus diverted, Suleiman and his girlfriend in one car are able to slip through the checkpoint.  The balloon finally sets on top of a golden domed structure. 

Suleiman's girlfriend looks out the window at the neighbor whose house was fire-bombed and shot at.  The police arrive to investigate the shooting.  The house owner tells the police about his new car.  (It probably was the car belonging to Suleiman's father.)  Later the woman walks by the policemen and the house owner.  They all stop to watch her as Suleiman watches them.  

Suleiman visits his father.  He places head phones on his father's head so he can hear some music. 

Only one car watches the checkpoint this night.  A new guard arrives on the scene and he starts taunting the drivers and humiliating them.  He switches drivers to different cars and makes drivers get out their car to sing a Jewish song with him.  When he finally tires of his games, he tells everyone to get out of there.  Suleiman watches all of this without apparent emotion.

Suleiman stops at a red light.  He is transfixed by a billboard with the picture of a Palestinian and the words:  "Come shoot if you're ready."  An Israeli pulls up beside him in his car.  Suleiman plays a song on s tape with the lyrics "I put a spell on you."  The two men start staring each other down.  The other cars start beeping at the two men for not moving when they have a green light. 

Suleiman is back at the check point.  An ambulance with lights flashing is forced to stop at the checkpoint.  The guard has them open the back of the ambulance.  When he finds nothing the guard simply shouts:  "Go!"

The next scene is pure fantasy in the modern kung-fu tradition of whirling swordsmen and women.  The police practice shooting at silhouettes of a Palestinian women.  They do all sorts of choreographed shooting that looks ridiculous.  Then Suleiman's girlfriend comes dressed just like the Palestinian woman on the silhouettes.  The policemen all shoot at the woman, but she twirls in such a way as to avoid being hit.   She then throws some fancy darts at the men killing several of them.   Next she juggles three hand grenades, pulls the pins and throws them.  Two more men are killed.  Only the instructor is left.  She pulls his automatic weapon out of his hands with her scarf.  She then destroys a helicopter by throwing a piece of metal that acts like a boomerang and hits the flying machine.

Suleiman cuts up onions while tears pour down his cheeks.  He picks out a post-it note from his wall which says "Father dies."  He rips up the note. 

Outside  two cars block the way of a third driven by Santa Claus.  Santa starts telling one of the men at the blockade how he dealt with another driver who blocked his way while cleaning his car.  He and his brother put the man in the hospital with broken ribs. 

Suleiman and his mother watch a pressure cooker steaming on the stove.  Mother suggests that her son turn the heat off. 

And that's how it ends. 

The movie is "In memory of my father." 

 

It was hard to figure out what was going on in the movie.  Who was Arab, who Jewish and who Christian?  A lot of the fights between neighbors were not between Jews and Arabs, but Palestinians against Palestinians.  Looking up the history of Nazareth on Wikipedia and listening to the director's comments on the movie helped me make sense out of the collection of black humor incidents.  At times it was a little frustrating to watch, but I still enjoyed the movie.  And some of the scenes were genuinely funny and more so when looked at from the point-of-view of the humor being black.  The film gives some interesting insights into the lives of Palestinians living in Israel. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 


Historical Background: 

 

Nazareth capitulated July 16, 1948 to Israeli troops after little more than token resistance.  Chaim Laskov gave orders to brigade commander Ben Dunkelman (the leader of the operation) to evacuate the civilian population of Nazareth, but Dunkelman refused to obey the order.  Therefore, the Arab residents of Nazareth were never forced out  (This is in stark contrast to what happened to the surrounding towns.)

Nazareth is located in the North District of Israel.   It is the capital of the district and the largest city in the district.

The vast majority of the city's inhabitants are Arab citizens of Israel.  In 2005 the population was 65,000 of which 31.3% are Christians and 68.7% are Muslims.   The Nazareth metropolis area has a population of approximately 185,000 of which over 125,000 are Arabs.

As the childhood home of Jesus, the city is a center of Christian pilgrimage. 

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