The award-winning Palestinian director on his latest and most personal film, Israel’s moral army, and the power of silence.


Photograph via Flickr by Hendrik Speck

Could an Israeli soldier, tank, or checkpoint appearing in one of Elia Suleiman’s films be no different than a pushy New Yorker, speeding cab, or the Carnegie Deli appearing in one of Woody Allen’s films? “The desire to express in an art form and to compose a tableau and vignette, whether it’s humorous, burlesque, or poetic comes simply from a desire to compose an image for cinema,” he says in the interview that follows. “It is not my fault that when I go to Ramallah there is a checkpoint and therefore it enters my film.”

For Suleiman, who stars in, writes, and directs his own projects, his films are meant simply to live the human experience. Those audience members looking for a history lesson, linear point, or argument, are in the wrong theater. But with films like his most recent, The Time That Remains, a portrait of the absurdity of life under Israeli occupation, it’s nearly impossible for the Nazareth-born filmmaker to avoid being accused of trying to score political points, and his work of being deemed inflammatory. To wit, shortly after The Time That Remains was released in Israel, a politician attempted to have Suleiman declared an enemy of the state and his passport revoked.

The Time That Remains is partly based on his father’s diaries as well as collected anecdotes, photos, and family memories. It is an idiosyncratic film, not uncommon for one of today’s most interesting filmmakers. In this tragicomic drama the character Suleiman plays has a somber face and is mute. But this muteness witnesses, and silence has a voice. You may not be aware you’re hearing, but you are. Continuing the semi-autobiographical explorations of his first feature, Chronicle of a Disappearance (1997), which won Best First Prize at the Venice Film Festival, and the critically acclaimed Divine Intervention (2002), which won the Jury Prize, the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize as well as Best Foreign Film Prize at the European Awards in Rome, The Time That Remains was in the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival.

What sets Suleiman’s latest film apart from his previous works is its more reflective quality. The Time That Remains weaves through a series of specifically framed melancholic and comic vignettes starting in 1948 and spanning sixty years of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In this tapissage, we watch the characters’ trials and tribulations during that period. The father, Fuad, is a resistance fighter who—like Suleiman’s father—is beaten by Israeli soldiers in 1948. The film follows Fuad’s resistance, fighting against the Haganah. Later in the film, a boy depicting Suleiman as a youth appears singing patriotic Zionist songs at school and being scolded for calling Americans “colonialists.” Then we see him as an adolescent and then as a middle-aged man when he returns to see his dying mother.

Suleiman’s accurately composed moments, farcical and tragic, leave the viewer aching. His way of giving details a breath and voice, making them actual narrators, is moving and a powerful transmittance of the occupation’s audacity. In one of the most affecting moments of the film, Suleiman’s character returns to present-day Nazareth and the West Bank to find a more perplexing landscape. His silent communion with his mother is a culminating point. He seems to be saying: the portrait of this quietness tells our story but warns not to misunderstand—this is a determined presence, not an absence.

Suleiman currently resides in Paris and is a faculty member at the European Graduate School (EGS). He lived in New York City between 1981 and 1993, and during that time directed his first two films, Introduction to the End of an Argument (1990), and the acclaimed Homage by Assassination (1992). In 1994, he moved to Jerusalem where the European Commission entrusted him with the mission of creating a Film and Media Department at Birzeit University. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Rockefeller Award (1992), the Prince Claus Award (2008), the Black Pearl Award (2009), and Variety Magazine Middle East Filmmaker of the Year (2009).

The Palestinian filmmaker, soon heading to Havana to begin work on a short film, remains faithful to his platform: the steady shot and minimalism. How will this master of finding his way into and out of disturbance and stillness approach his next film? As he leaves the quiet corner of the Lucerne Hotel’s lounge, where the interview was conducted, I get the feeling it’s what he didn’t say that was most precisely articulated.

—Nathalie Handal for Guernica

Guernica: The opening scene of your new film, The Time That Remains, is a short film in itself. The driver is speaking to his dispatcher, asking for Eli Menashe, while the passenger in the back, played by you, sits without ever saying a word. The driver says, “I really don’t need a storm. What’s going on here? We have lost our way, where do we go now, where are you? Where am I?” Can you speak about this scene?

Elia Suleiman: I have a tendency to initiate all of my narratives with a scene that launches the narrative but in itself does not belong to the narrative. In my first film, the second shot starts with a woman who is supposedly my aunt. She enters and gives a tedious monologue that gives the impression that all of the people mentioned are going to be entangled in the narrative. But in the scene that follows we no longer see her. In Divine Intervention, kids are chasing a Santa Claus. I never strategize but this gives me an entrance into the film. So in The Time That Remains, we witness an Armageddon at the beginning of the film. Evidently, it is not a normal storm. It is a strike from heaven and the taxi driver is lost on many levels. I wanted to initiate a flashback. He asked, “Where am I?” and in the pretext of that question, recount [the events of] 1948. How we got here, is in fact, the real question. I also wanted to introduce myself as a narrator who just arrived from the airport, not a central voice, so I am in the shadow. I am in a shadow half existing in order to bring me back later on. It fits the structure to start the film with an anecdote. The Israeli’s taxi driver has the same name as me, Eli. And, Eli means God in Hebrew. He asks, “Eli, Eli, where am I? Do you hear me?”

Guernica: So in your work, every moment stands on its own, but still comes together. They could be isolated moments yet they all weave themselves together.

Elia Suleiman: Absolutely. You expressed it very well, and that is how I write the script. I work on layering that mounting and minting of that tableau-program—the background, movements, choreography. It is a kind of subliminal montage; it does have continuity. How do you make a scene fit with the scene next when it’s not related but just is rhythmically, is difficult to achieve. But sometimes I get stuck on the tenth scene and it does not rhyme with the scene before and rather than continue and come back to it later, I spend days not advancing. It’s crucial to choose your work place-some places lend themselves to you and others don’t.

They objected to the looting scene in script, because they said, “We are a moral army, we never steal.” I told Avi, “They stole a fuckin’ country and didn’t feel moral about it.”

Guernica: Another striking scene is when the Israeli soldiers are stealing from the Arab houses. It is based on stories you heard but is also symbolic of what comes next for Palestine and Palestinians. How did this scene come into being?

Elia Suleiman: It wasn’t initiated…perhaps in the back of my mind. Israel, the Israelis, and the rest of the world have been brainwashed. They don’t think of pre-1948, they have no idea Palestinians were in Israel, who we were before ’48. As if we were born in 1948 according to them. They have no notion that we had a country, houses, rebelled against the Ottomans and the British. They think history in that region started in that moment. The influence that brings this kind of scene in carries the burden of all these questions and preconceptions that a lot of people have or don’t know about the history of the region. About the looting in particular…I was shooting for a location in my neighborhood, and told a neighbor I wanted to shoot a scene from her balcony. She told me, “Come, I’ll show you something.” She showed me bullet holes in walls of her house. She explained that in 1948, she had just returned from her honeymoon in Beirut where she bought embroideries and other souvenirs. One day she walked into her house and found the Haganah wrapping all the embroideries and gold. They were looting her house. When her husband tried to prevent one of them (from the looting), they scared him by shooting. While telling me the story, she started to tear up. Sixty years later and it was as if it had just happened to her. I was so moved, disturbed, and angry, I told her I was going to take some revenge for her by creating this looting scene. I shot it outside of her house.

Guernica: And does your family still have their house?

Elia Suleiman: I shot Chronicle of a Disappearance, Divine Intervention, and this film at my parents’s house, sometimes intentionally placing the camera in the same position. In Chronicle and The Time That Remains, the camera is in the exact same position when my mother is in the kitchen eating ice cream. I wanted to create that chronology, but she passed away before she could appear in The Time That Remains. Her sister took her place. The camera bears the burden of time passing. It was part of the spirit of the film. And to speak about the looting a little more for those who think it was just a few embroideries and a bunch of photos, the whole country was looted and stolen, whether inside the house or the land. I wanted to just hint at that reality. I wanted an Israeli tank in the film and my line producer who is a good friend, Avi Kleinberger, asked the Israeli Army knowing they were not going to give it to him. Indeed they refused, but it wasn’t because of the tank or that scene. They didn’t care about the script, or 1948. They objected to the looting scene in script, because they said, “We are a moral army, we never steal.” [Laughs.] I told Avi, “They stole a fuckin’ country and didn’t feel moral about it.”

Guernica: A reoccurring symbol of seeing and not seeing, the real and the surreal, is projected in the film—like the scene in the field when the Arab men are blindfolded and kneeling, awaiting life or death. Is it your way of showing history and to inspire people to not just accept any version of the creation of the Israeli state?

Elia Suleiman: I wanted to hint at two things. This image that you saw in 1948 continued to be seen in 1967, during the Intifada, and today. The Haganah dressed as Arabs and infiltrated. They started doing this before 1948. This continued in 1967 until today. There is a very well trained brigade just for that. What I wanted to show with the blindfolding of Fuad’s character is that when he smelled the nature around him, he could see the landscape.

Guernica: There was a similar scene in Divine Intervention, when the soldier asked the blindfolded prisoner to give the passers-by directions.

Elia Suleiman: Exactly. In The Time That Remains, it is more emotional, less burlesque. The fact that these people who are imprisoning the Palestinians do not know the landscape and have no idea where they are while these Palestinians belong to land.

I don’t understand when my film is screened at MoMA, and I’ve lived here for fifteen years, and the same question is asked, “How do you think we can solve the problem of Palestine?” The problem has to be solved with that spectator.

Guernica: Your work transcends the boundaries of Palestine, and in doing so invites you into another’s reality in order to connect with your own. So, it’s an informative agent both personal and collective. Can you speak further on that?

Elia Suleiman: The desire to express in an art form and to compose a tableau and vignette whether it’s humorous, burlesque, or poetic comes simply from a desire to compose an image for cinema. It is not my fault that when I go to Ramallah there is a checkpoint and therefore it enters my film. Tell me a way to avoid that politicized image. The fact is that the police are everywhere, the army everywhere and occupation is total. Whether it’s a love story or a thriller, you place the camera and these realities will cross the frame. What cinema can do is the reordering of this reality from a certain chaos or from a certain order into an aesthetic dimension. So I take the element and highlight them with a certain temporality, with sound and movement that becomes this tableau that you are seeing.

Guernica: Before I started recording, we spoke about whether Americans really know or don’t know what’s going on in Palestine and you said it’s not a conspiracy but it’s a patronizing attitude sometimes. Can you expand?

Elia Suleiman: To think that we are disconnected in some way serves the occupation whether it’s through indifference or a distancing. It is a colonial approach of making you a subject and them the spectators. That is disturbing and counterproductive. And then suddenly they are surprised or find it alienating that the microcosmic effects of Palestine are happening in the U.S., France, and England, whether it’s from the Islamic movements or immigration factors. Keeping a false purity of their countries will harm them eventually. I don’t understand when my film is screened at MoMA, and I’ve lived here for fifteen years, and the same question is asked, “How do you think we can solve the problem of Palestine?” The problem has to be solved with that spectator.

Palestine is about how we drink the water, whether we are being ecological or not. Palestine is our way of exercising our daily living. That’s what’s going to solve the problem of Palestine. It’s also how we think of ourselves spiritually. This kind of disconnectedness is harmful to the person who is acting that way and is sometimes annoying.

Someone like myself is not from one place. I am in total identification with the New York, French, and Palestine experience and do not stop at the borders of identity. It’s a false illusion that we wake up thinking of who we are in terms of identity and that we are stuck in the boundaries of who we are nationalistically. I have no relation to nationalism. When I go to SoHo today, I am not thinking of my national identity. I am thinking of certain desires and even consumerist tendencies.

This particular spectator who comes to spend twenty minutes or dedicates an hour and a half to gain a little extra knowledge from a Palestinian director is a false notion. People should come for pleasure of watching the film, not from the perspective of learning something new from history. In my case, it is the wrong place to be. I do not teach history in my films. I don’t have a linear point of view or argument. What I do in my films is to live the human experience; human, whether in Nazareth or anywhere else in the world. There are no solutions in my films. What is interesting and ironic is that, on one level, their [industrialized] ways are arrogant as they try to find ways to solve the problem of this ‘other.’ And at the same time, these countries have delved into globalizing the world and now the negative effects are coming back to them. Look at Egypt, these people are shit-scared. Either they start opening up culturally and spiritually or they find another way to connect instead of thinking of themselves as the benefactors of the oil and spoils of the country. This is disturbing, but again, it is having its counter-effect on them. When I watch President Obama talking, I find him sometimes regressive and infantile in the way he expresses his support for Egypt. On one level, it is about American interests and on the other, he is maybe reminiscing about the books he wrote.

I don’t like the films of Amos Gitai. Everyone thinks we are the closest friends on earth. But I have to finally come out and say it. I am not an admirer of his work.

Guernica: Israeli cinema has made recent attempts to address their occupation of a fort in Lebanon. Films such as Waltz With Bashir. You seem to think that this trend echoes Hollywood’s post–Vietnam War movies reflecting one point of view, that of the psyche of the white soldier, not of the masses being killed.

Elia Suleiman: I did not see Lebanon and don’t want to see [it]. To think of a film from the point of view of a tank barrel is already so inhumanly positioned. This is when film can reveal itself scandalously. I don’t like the films of Amos Gitai. Everyone thinks we are the closest friends on earth. But I have to finally come out and say it. I am not an admirer of his work. I think four or five of his earlier films—documentaries—were very well done. I am speaking cinematically, not about his politics, which is not the point. The films you are speaking of have to be analyzed a bit. Some don’t mention the word Palestine. There is this genre of liberal Zionist films that’s representing Palestinian suffering and spilling some liberal sympathy too. Then there are better filmmakers who don’t go there. There may be a couple in the middle doing interesting cinema while tackling some politics. But this genre you mentioned, that started a few years ago, such as Waltz, seem to be inspired by the Oliver Stone syndrome. They are a kind of political consciousness of the occupation, of this ‘other’ that they don’t actually comprehend and do not make any attempt to culturally approach. They are comfortable with ‘other’ as a mass. There is a confessional aspect in these films of the army’s implications. I am not agitated by them because I am not interested in them cinematically, whether it’s by an Israeli, American, or any nationality.

Guernica: How about the Arab perspective? You mentioned some Arab countries boycotting your work. There are debates surrounding Palestinians in Israel being boycotted by Arabs. What do you think about that?

Elia Suleiman: There are different kinds of boycotts. The boycotting of the Palestinians from Israel by Arabs is obsolete. It existed years ago when the Egyptian critics—government-paid, scandalizing media types—wanted to be more Palestinian than Palestinians. Some accuse us of normalization with Israel and that comes from a shallow study of the situation. When I made my first film, I was attacked viciously but in a provincial and local setting—calling me a Zionist collaborator. It is easy to live in this brainwashed ambience. The boycott that concerns me is the boycott against Israeli intellectuals, academics, and cultural figures. That boycott has to be continuously reevaluated. I am for it, with caution. I was against it during the Lebanon War, and I suspended my boycott. But some of the boycotters boycotted individual Israelis, some of whom are political activists, filmmakers. They are a little overdosed with their sentimentalism for the cause. There are very respectable filmmakers whom I like very much who were boycotted by the cultural Arab scene, like Simon Bitton and Avi Moghrabi. It is not about them coming to do charity for the Palestinians. These are very moral politicized cultural figures. There is a need for a critical approach to any boycott, case by case. My position is that nobody should be sacrificed. It is a complicated issue. I am for it and I see it has an effect. But I will not—and it depends on the moment—I did not say no to showing my film in Israel. Now should I have boycotted Israel with my film? It is sensitive. I come from Nazareth. I come from one hour away from this reality they are living, and they are where I’m living. So is it better they see or not see the film, a film that speaks about who we are and the nature of conflict, 1948? I chose to show it. I prefer they come to the theater and we have a discussion. But in my contract, the film is in my hands so that I have a distributor who’s not concerned with where the film is shown [the film is distributed globally, and by IFC in the United States].

Guernica: The film travels different decades to show the changes the characters have gone through during the conflict. But unlike Divine Intervention, which was fiercer, more dynamic, The Time That Remains is quieter, more reflective. Talk about that aesthetic choice. And I am curious about your notion of hope?

Elia Suleiman: I am curious about it too. I am stretching myself a little too far from the true daily feeling that I have. First about the film, if I was who I am today, at this age, and living the time of Divine Intervention, that moment when it was the second Intifada and violence was around me, would I have made the same film since I was older and more mature cinematically, or would it still have been fierce as you said, with its own vibrant temporality? That is a good question. I cannot answer.

So does the spirit of the film have to do with who I am or where I am in my career or does it to do with a particular moment in history? What I can say is that I do remember myself at the time of Divine. I remember the lé gèreté of the giggles and the burlesque were at the forefront for me. I was so eager to make scenes like the ninja and the tank. I was laughing at my own jokes before even writing the script. When filming The Time That Remains, I was another person. This film reflects who I have become spiritually in this moment. And there is an interesting question to raise. I tackled the ’48 segment already when I was writing Divine Intervention. I already had these notes of my father. I was already thinking of them but every time I came close to them, I told myself, I am not ready. I even wrote a couple of scenes and then distanced myself from them. I didn’t think they were interesting. For a long time I wanted to tackle the story of my father. I found a lot of things interesting in them but I don’t I think I would have made an interesting film then. I am always reflective in this semi-biographical fashion-what I go through personally, my emotions, and what I feel is truly what you see in my films. The hard work is how to communicate and transfer an image that you identify with and takes you in. And for this emotion to be metamorphized into this habitat…that is where a lot of work has to be done.

That is really where, if you succeed in expressing yourself, the road is difficult sometimes. Because it came from that moment when you felt melancholic and far. You had to go so far to retain that brushstroke, so there is a haiku-ish element to it. In Chronicle of a Disappearance at some point they thought I had an open camera—a minimalist movement inside the frame. But the truth is, trucks of light were added to create that ambience. To express the emotional relation you have with a mother or a father, such as I do, can’t be constructed easily. In fact, this little moment is what took so long. What is fascinating is I truly forget how the moment happened. Did it happen at all? My memory becomes the film’s, not the actual event. Sometimes, if I am curious, I go to my notebooks to see how this shot happened or I ask a family member.

For instance, my mother in the balcony with the music, I constructed it but did it happen? Luckily, I was able to phone my brother in Italy and ask him. By the way, I had to warn my brothers before they saw the film because my mother’s eighty-year-old sister managed to act exactly like mother and she is not at all like her. She is very energetic, drives to this day. She imitated my mother so precisely and followed by directions. When I saw the film, I was taken aback. I forgot it was my aunt.

Guernica: The absurdities in your film seem to stem from what is grounded. That viewers can watch a scene like the tank episode and later discover that it is based on a true story. In fact, didn’t the same guy in real life who told you the story act in that scene?

Elia Suleiman: He doesn’t play the part actually. I wanted the real person to act it but he was away from Ramallah so I had to use someone else. I wonder what did not happen in my film. I think all of the scenes and moments had a departure from reality. The rest is what you do with it. You go back to it like you are going back to an album of photos.

Guernica: What other filmmakers and films have been important to you as an artist?

Elia Suleiman: The Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu and the Chinese filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien. They made it possible for me to make movies. When I saw their films, I thought, “These people are so close to me.” When positioning a camera for the first time, you ask yourself,“Should I place it here and not up there?” It is a process of elimination. But it is in that place I feel at home, behind the camera. It is a way of expressing something personal and for something personal this is where you have to do the interrogation. It is a mixture of how I naturally fell into a point of view [with my] camera, very personally, and at the same time this personal point of view identifies with these filmmakers. So a combination of things gave me the faith that I was in the right place.

The same thing I say about silence I could say about poetry. People in power tend to find poetry dangerous to them because it is dislocating, they can’t catch it, can’t control it. They prefer coherence, what’s blunt and has clarity.

Guernica: There are numerous scenes from your movies that are like still-life portraits or paintings. Tell me about your influences.

Elia Suleiman: My mentor is the English writer John Berger. I can say he gave me the faith. He made me think I can do it. We talk about it now. I was young and he was a glamorous star in his fifties but he saw something in me. We identified with each other. I met him by accident and he asked me what I wanted to do. I said cinema because I felt I needed to say something. I didn’t know cinema. It turned out to be true. I surprised him ten years later. He was a guardian angel. Now we are extremely close friends. The credit belongs to him.

Guernica: How about poets? Your films are like poems.

Elia Suleiman: Primo Levi had great influence on me. Still does. I am always in admiration of him particularly when I feel down. I admire a man who can reignite hope with so little, with a tin in a concentration camp. I would probably go the Walter Benjamin way.

Guernica: Your choice of music is very interesting, from Natacha Atlas to old Arabic songs. The songs are like characters. How do you choose the music in your films?

Elia Suleiman: Music and sound, like the image, for me are at the forefront. And yes, the music I employ in the film is not background. The songs themselves are narrators, so they are precisely chosen. They have to narrate a parallel story. Sometimes, these songs are already in the drawer and I thought of using them for a long time because I am in love with them or sometimes it’s my father who was listening to them. In Chronicle for a Disappearance, the twenty-second scene, when he is sleeping on the bed and there is an Ismahan song coming from a little radio on the side, is a total and perfect documentation of my father taking a siesta. It was either Ismahan or Umn Kultoum and it was coming from a transistor. I inherited his love of these singers and composers. My father had a total admiration for Abdelwahab. To him, he is the god of music. He would buy me cassettes. Once he gave me one of Leila Mourad, and told me, “Here, you will like this song.” In Divine Intervention, the track played while at the checkpoint is definitely not pure. It has a sentimentalist effect. It was saying something about the reality of a checkpoint without objectivity. While the scene when the Atlas song is playing—one Palestinian and one Israeli at the red light looking at each other—was precisely to the point. I feel gratified when I achieve utter minimalism.

Guernica: You have been compared to Jacques Tati. In The Time That Remains there’s quite a bit of physical comedy, like the old man who curses and wants to blow himself up. What does humor communicate more powerfully?

Elia Suleiman: I don’t think you can strategize to be poetic and neither can you strategize to be funny. It is not a tool, it is itself—it comes from the moment, from the character, from the background, from the streets. But we can make a bouquet of reasoning why it fell where it fell. We can talk about it as a tool of resistance. We can definitely understand some of the elements and where they come from. Nazareth is a ghetto. The old man represents a ghetto humor—drunk, unemployed, and nuts. On the other hand, it is the humor of despair. That is historic. So Jewish, to say the least. It comes from the Second World War when they produced humor even though they were going to their deaths. Despair is a definite contributor. Then comes the filmmaker. I have an eye, an ear for humor, not because I am a ghettoized person, I am a privileged person but because I come from a background where my family was funny, I was brought up in an ambience of humor. And I collect stories I hear from my brothers and family.

Guernica: You have also been compared to Buster Keaton. And you include yourself as a character in most of your films, usually as a mute spectator. If Keaton with his stoic expression became known as the Great Stone Face, maybe you should be known as the Great Silent Face. Can you speak about your presence in your own films?

Elia Suleiman: As I said, I don’t strategize and my acting comes with the same [fluidity]. I did not blink and I did not want to blink. I know I move in this kind of somnambulist fashion and this continued from my first shot until today. Now with a little more experience, but I maintained that exact same presence. If I try to explain why, I would say, I am at ease, at home with this character for several reasons. First, because I am this person, I can identify with him as myself. Second, this seems to be a sincere way of leaving it open for the spectator, without imposing how they should interpret. I become a transparent guide.

Guernica: But in your case that silence speaks poignantly. What is the other face of silence?

Elia Suleiman: What you are calling silence is not necessarily just my expressionless expression, it is also the sounds that I create to create the silence. It is really the ambience of silence that I create. Aside from that, silence can be intimidating, sometimes provocative, sometimes a form of resistance because it dislocates. It also leaves an empty face to be filled and the spectators with the possibility of participating in imagining the space. But I stress it is not strategic. It is my cinematic tendency. I never asked myself if I should do it in another way. There are a lot of questions that come out of the silence. It is so close to the infinite. There is an unease somewhere but also a spiritual serenity that you can exercise when you have that form of silence. But also intimidating to those who should be intimidated such as certain power structures. They don’t adhere to silence. They want as much noise as possible so they can capitalize on it, so they can contain and control. The same thing I say about silence I could say about poetry. People in power tend to find poetry dangerous to them because it is dislocating, they can’t catch it, can’t control it. They prefer coherence, what’s blunt and has clarity.

Guernica: In response to a question of what Israelis’ think of The Time That Remains, you said at a recent screening that “Even with a situation like Egypt, we have to ask what the Israelis think.” What do you think of the situation in Egypt, and will it have any effect on the Palestinian situation?

Elia Suleiman: With these regimes being toppled, you start to think, “The world can be better.” We’ve had so many disappointments.

Guernica: Does the title of the film question what’s The Time That Remains for Palestinians, for Israelis? Is time running out? Is an end near?

Elia Suleiman: The title is a warning sign. There is little time remaining—what can we do to save what seems not savable. But what’s happening in Tunis and Egypt may have elasticized that time remaining. It’s no longer a shrinking sight. These revolutions may have invented, in a day, and maybe further expanded the dimension of the time that we live in. Living more intensely, more lovingly, with more camaraderie, that is in itself resistance.

Guernica: Finally, to come back to the opening scene, which might very well be the last scene, where is Elia Suleiman?

Elia Suleiman: I am more at peace than I’ve ever known myself to be. My connectedness to the world is more intense. I am more attentive to the humanity around me.

To contact Guernica or Elia Suleiman, please write here.

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