x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

A remarkable Thursday during a week in Cuba

The film 7 Days in Havana features seven shorts, each set during a day in the same week. Thursday's entry is a short from the Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman.

A still of
A still of "7 Days in Havana" showing Elia Suleiman. Courtesy Full House and Morena Films

The "portmanteau film set in the same city" concept is one that has risen in popularity over recent years, most notably with Paris Je t'aime and New York, I Love You. But this week at Cannes sees the world premiere of a Caribbean twist in the story, with some regional influence thrown in for good measure, too.

The film 7 Days in Havana features seven shorts, each set during a day in the same week and each made by a different director. And Thursday's entry is a short from the Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman.

"The idea was to make this movie now because of the shift that's happening in Cuba," says Suleiman. "It's opening up, and the producers' idea was to document this moment."

Making the film was unlike anything Suleiman had experienced before, with the preselected crew being the same for all the directors and only two cinematographers to choose from. "I was working with nobody I knew and in the beginning it was scary. I was really panicky," he says.

But despite the difficulties in Havana, Suleiman admits he's pleased he took up the offer.

"These films are dress rehearsals for the sort of experimentation that I want to do," he says. "Because shorts don't carry the same weight, or the same responsibility or finance, you dare to actually see if you can try out certain things. I had an idea of a certain shift in my style that I wanted to do and didn't know if I could do it. And I'm very happy that I did it because, in my opinion, it went well."

Despite the shift, will Suleiman's short feature the sort of absurd portrayals of life he's become renowned for (2002's outstanding Divine Intervention saw a tank famously blown up by a peach stone)?

"Yes, it's very consistent with my other films. It has the melancholy and humour," he smiles.

Expect Thursday in Havana to stick out like a sore - but comically wonderful - thumb.