Over the weekend I went to see The Time That Remains: Chronicles of a Present Absentee, a film by Elia Sulieman a Palestinian from Nazareth- it was AMAZING.
Now this may come off a little unfair but films on Palestine don’t tend to be cinematic masterpieces as they expect the issue (ie. the Palestine-Israel conflict) to carry the film and in some ways that’s fine- because they are about getting the message across. But this is just a gem of a film with moments of bright brilliance.
The Time That Remains is the third installment on Palestinians living in Israel and is the most personal so far- including Sulieman’s earliest memories as well as his father’s diaries to tell the story of the invasion of Nazareth in 1948 and the subsequent exile of his family. It’s darkly whimsical and without giving too much away, the first half follows his father’s story which gives way to Elia’s own experiences as a silent observer into the absurd, paradoxical and nuanced complexities of being a Palestinian in Israel and returning from exile.
There are some really iconic moments such as Sulieman calmly pole-vaulting across the Apartheid wall, stalking tanks, off-the-wall neighbours, blind-as-a-bat aunties whose plate of lentils are dumped straight into the bin but one scene which really stands out for me is Elia being scolded by his teacher in an Israeli school who asks him: ‘who told you that America is colonialist? That it is imperialist?’
Doesn’t he know that kind of talk isn’t suitable for the classroom?
It’s a great scene which shows how the conflict and confusion starts at a young age and isn’t ever entirely shaken off. It also reminded me of an event I went to that was organised by the NUJ and the reaction of a Zimbabwean journalist Foster Dongozi- when he was asked about whether he was concerned about America’s imperial and colonialist agenda.
It clearly made him uncomfortable because for him, that was something that the Zimbabwean regime constantly spouts to hinder press freedom and so he wanted to clarify that they were routinely arrested for being the ‘running dogs of the imperial state of America’. I guess Mugabe is going for the whole better-the-devil-you-know card…but just because it’s (ab)used as an excuse by an awful dictatorship does it become less valid? I don’t know.
Anyway, the whole film is littered with unfinished and silent scenes like this which recall events but leave you to decide what to think. They seem to be waiting for the viewers reaction, their memory and attempts to make sense of it all.
If you get the chance, go and see this film!