Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman’s onscreen persona in It Must Be Heaven – a flummoxed, self-effacing, whimsical loner who observes with deadpan bewilderment, almost by stepping outside the frame, the crazy world around him – has a bit of both Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati in him. And, the visually striking form of muted, seriocomic, stylized tableaux draw comparisons with Roy Andersson. Yet, that he lives in an occupied region brutalized by a repressive state, imbued the film with a rich political context and fatalist melancholy, and these elements made this ravishing work both distinctive and deeply personal. It begins with a non-sequitur prologue – where a pompous priest leading a procession of devotees is disallowed entry into the church – which set the stage with its subversive, insolent wit. The narrative shifts to modern-day Nazareth where ES’ over-enthusiastic neighbor keeps encroaching into his garden, an old man indulges in incongruous conversations, and the Israeli armed forces keep arrogantly imposing their authority. He travels to Paris where he fleetingly experiences the beau monde, but then keeps seeing eccentric robot-like cops, alt-right punks in the metro, and tanks rolling past the Banque de France, and a producer refuses to finance his film for not being Palestinian enough. He finally travels to New York where things are even weirder as he sees people carrying automatic guns to the supermarket and cops chasing anyone deemed protesting, and this time he doesn’t even get an appointment with the producer despite recommendations by Gael García Bernal. Filled with funny, absurdist, self-deprecating vignettes, with moments of lush beauty thrown in, the film portrayed Suleiman as an artist in exile, perennially haunted by parallels with his tragic home wherever he goes.
Director: Elia Suleiman
Genre: Comedy/Black Comedy/Political Satire