The Time That Remains: One Family's Surreal Saga, 50 Years of Arab-Israeli Struggle
Where am I? a disoriented Israeli cabdriver asks his dispatcher at the beginning of Elia Suleimans The Time That Remains. This pointillist portrait of Israeli Arabs in Nazareth tries to answer that plaintive question in four quiet, uneven, partly autobiographical, seriocomic episodes set in 1948, 1970, 1980, and the present.
Suleimans treatment of the 48 Arab-Israeli War showcases the Palestinian filmmakers eye for a mordant set piece, as Nazareths mayor must pose for a photo with Israeli army officers after signing terms of surrender. The photographers big ass fills the screen, pointed directly at the rest of the citys Arab leaders. These early sections, based on the diaries of Suleimans father, Fuadplayed here by the striking Saleh Bakriare the films strongest, thanks in great measure to DP Marc-André Batignes vibrant images of the old citys sunbaked glory. (One shot of a biplane dropping propaganda leaflets over the hills of Galilee makes you despair for Nazareths future and desperately want to visit.)
Once the focus shifts to Elia himself, played by the director as a wide-eyed silent-movie naïf, the pace slackens. Suleimans a more assured director than he is a comedian. But individual, Tati-worthy gags still have great power, as when a pitched battle between Arab doctors and Israeli soldiers plays out in a single sustained long shot through the windows of a hospital corridor. And when Elias aged, diabetic motheryears after the arrest of her husbandsits on her apartment balcony, ignoring the fireworks exploding over those Galilean hills, its a complicated moment in a potent film.
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