Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Oscars 2020: Filmmaker Elia Suleiman to represent Palestine in Best Foreign Language Film submission

The director's Cannes-approved satire, 'It Must Be Heaven', is the country's official entry for the Academy Award category

Elia Suleiman in 'It Must Be Heaven', which will be Palestine's submission for Best Foreign Language Film at next year's Oscars. Carole Bethuel
Elia Suleiman in 'It Must Be Heaven', which will be Palestine's submission for Best Foreign Language Film at next year's Oscars. Carole Bethuel

It won the Jury Special Mention award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, but It Must Be Heaven could also be up for a little gold statuette next year, if its Oscar bid is successful.

Elia Suleiman’s satirical film has been chosen as Palestine's official submission for the Academy Awards, which will be held on February 9, 2020, according to Arab Cinema Centre.

The acerbic comedy will contend to be nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category, months after winning acclaim at Cannes.

The film, which stars Suleiman, follows him as he goes from Paris to New York alongside co-star Ali Suliman (Homeland, Lone Survivor) in a semi-autobiographical tale of a Palestinian man seeking a new homeland, only to find similarities with his homeland wherever he goes.

Suleiman’s film also picked up the Fipresci Critics’ Award at Cannes, which took place in May.

The jury said in a statement: “In a subtle, stylistically strong and humorous way, this film tells a story that goes beyond politics, religions, authorities and cultural differences. Even though those differences are observed with a sharp eye for the absurd that slides through hypocrisy and are delivered with great cinematic and often surprising choreographies.”

The director told The National he decided to base his film in the US and Paris, as opposed to his home town of Nazareth, where his previous movies have been located, due to his own experiences.

"For a reason that is almost as simple as I am. New York and Paris are two places that I have lived in for a long time, 14 years here, and 14 years there, so I’m familiar with the humour of the places.”

In scenes in Paris, the streets are often unusually bare, a conscious choice to "reveal the bare bones of Paris, to show the oppressed, the Arabs being chased by police and the homeless", Suleiman added.

“[The film is] about discrimination, it’s about downgrading by colour, highlighting the collateral damage in the post-colonial world."

Suleiman is also behind 2002 film Divine Intervention, which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as 1996's Chronicle of a Disappearance, which won the Best First Film Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Palestine has submitted films for consideration at the Oscars since 2003, and has subsequently received two nominations thus far: for Paradise Now in 2006, and for Omar in 2013.

Updated: August 21, 2019 04:02 PM

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