If you like filmmaker Elia Suleiman, you will like It Must Be Heaven. This may well be an unusual start to a review, but this is not meant for the fans, because they already know what they are getting into. For the rest of you, how would one go about describing a Suleiman film? Well, Suleiman is a rare filmmaker: he is a Palestinian who is less concerned with doom and gloom, preferring to speak the truth of the occupation of Palestine, Israeli subjugation and his life as an individual living between the two through a Chaplinesque comedic style. He writes, directs and stars in his films, taking on a role that is less central and more peripheral. And the humour is so bone dry, you might find yourself wondering if you are watching a comedy.
This time, Suleiman’s fictional doppelganger takes the viewer with him as he attempts to escape his homeland. Seeing the issues that come with day-to-day life in Palestine, he goes away in search of a new home. However, not only is a new home hard to find, a place to escape those problems seems to be absolutely non-existent. This story is told through little vignettes concerned with inhumanity, cruelty, and confusing double standards, along with stories of triumph, friendship and rising above. The Chaplinesque designation is not an empty one: Suleiman may well be the spiritual successor of Chaplin.
A big part of the appeal of Suleiman’s works, one that must be mentioned, is the exemplary aesthetics that are unquestionably his. If you like long takes where the camera doesn’t move but plenty of action occurs, this is for you. If you like bright shots with vibrant colours, this is for you. Furthermore, if you like unexpected cameos and lots of unusual Cancon, this is for you. Watch out for a few familiar faces.
Ultimately, It Must Be Heaven is a film that may be easier to sell to someone who already knows what to expect, but once you find yourself in the thick of it, it would be near impossible to not come out a fan. In times like these, a calming influence is necessary and this is it.
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam