Elia Suleiman: "Has the Arab Spring only just begun?"

Events and Festivals, Palestine

Elia Suleiman: "Has the Arab Spring only just begun?"

Revealed with Divine Intervention (Jury Prize in Cannes in 2002), 51-year-old Palestinian film director Elia Suleiman is this year's patron for the Cinémas du Monde pavilion in Cannes. French newspaper '20 minutes' met up with him on the Croisette.


You are known for your strong sense of political engagement. Do you think that the 2011 Arab Spring could be an opportunity for filmmaking and directors from the countries involved? 

I really wonder if the Arab Spring has actually already taken place, or rather if it will continue, if it has only just begun... These events shook the earth and the foundations of powers in place, exposing their decadence. All the hope to which they gave rise and the hatred that was expressed... I can understand that people would want to make films out of it all. But these events are still too recent for us to be able to draw political or economic lessons from them. So, from a cinematic point of view…


Directors such as Yousri Nasrallah, in the competition, Nabil Ayouch, at the Certain Regard, or Merzak Allouache, at the Directors’ Fortnight, have made films inspired by recent events in their countries. What do you think?

I have not seen their films, but from experience, I know that it is better to take time to digest such events before discussing them. A work of art is not created in ten days and no one can be certain of its value in such a short amount of time. For the moment, what we can say about the Arab Spring is obviously going to be similar to what we saw of it on television. How could it be otherwise?


But are you not tempted to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in your films?

That’s what you think, but what I include in my films is always inspired by events which happened at least ten years before. You need distance to be able to stylize facts.


In your mind, what could change in the next ten years?

I am a bit skeptical, but I dream of the day when cinema will detach itself completely from national identities. For me, the Arab Spring will end when the question of identity no longer holds any importance. Personally, I have noticed that I am considered increasingly less as a Palestinian director, and I am very happy about it. Filmmaking knows no boundaries, and I do not know why it should be held up at check-points. 

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