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It Must Be Heaven

"thoroughly engrossing... funny and thought-provoking"


- Elia Suleiman is trying to make a film about his native Palestine. It’ll be about the conflict, but with a focus on the people living through it, and it’ll be a comedy. To get it financed he must travel to Paris and then New York. The result is It Must Be Heaven, an absolute treat of a film.

Suleiman places himself at the center of the film as an (almost) silent spectator. There’s a touch of Buster Keaton about him as he passively observes small vignettes from life: farmers tell him stories; combatants run past him; neighbours help one another. However, what Suleiman is really doing is lending us his eyes. He’s inviting the audience to see what he sees, and then reflect, while he stands by silently.

As he travels across the globe the scenes vary in nature, but throughout there is a recurring presence of both kindness and aggression. Movements are also repeated and mirrored. While the action is exaggerated there is still a strict precision to the framing. Characters move in straight lines, or circles, always keeping the frame balanced. This is all designed to catch our eye and encourage us to really look at what we’re seeing. The film may present caricatures but in reality, it’s a reflection on how the West is seen and it questions how the West sees itself. Suleiman finally brings the attention back to Palestine where, despite everything, there is just as much life here as anywhere else.

At once very gentle and thoroughly engrossing, this is a film that’s both funny and thought-provoking and, like the mark of all good films, the more you watch it the more you will see. Utilising the universal language of silent cinema, Suleiman has made a film about Palestine that is universally relatable. A small, understated gem.

- Jack Cameron, ONE ROOM WITH A VIEW

It Must Be Heaven is now playing at Light House Petone and Cuba!

In English, Arabic and French with English subtitles.


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