Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Divine Intervention (Yadon Ilaheyya) (2003)

Given the current political instability in the Middle East, a deadpan farce about life (and death) in the occupied territories might seem inappropriate.

Yet, as in last year's Bosnian drama "No Man's Land", perhaps only pitch-black humour can legitimately convey the farcical absurdity of daily existence in a military-controlled environment.

Directed by Palestinian emigré Elia Suleiman, "Divine Intervention" - subtitled "A Chronicle of Love and Pain" - initially unwinds as a series of vignettes portraying neighbourly feuds among Nazareth residents.

Father Christmas is chased up a hill by a gang of youths until he collapses with a knife protruding from his chest. A man repeatedly dumps rubbish in a neighbour's garden.

Another householder calmly deals with the firebombed car in his drive. And a piece of graffiti reads "I am crazy because I love you".

The film eventually focuses on a couple who regularly meet in a parking lot next to an Israeli army checkpoint.

Impassively played by writer-director Suleiman, the man is a Palestinian living in Jerusalem. His father (Nayef Fahoum Daher) is recovering in hospital from a heart attack.

The woman is his Ramallah-based girlfriend (the journalist Manal Khader). They hold hands and silently observe the Israeli soldiers' antics at this artificial barrier...

Photographed in long and often static takes, the frequently wordless "Divine Intervention" has been breathlessly compared to the works of silent comic maestros Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton.

Unfortunately the gags here vary enormously in their effectiveness. Some, such as the blindfolded Palestinian prisoner being asked to give a lost tourist instructions, are inspired.

But the extended "Crouching Tiger" parody sequence, involving a Palestinian female freedom fighter taking on her gun-toting opponents, is disappointingly miscalculated.

In Arabic and Hebrew, with English subtitles.

End Credits

Director: Elia Suleiman

Writer: Elia Suleiman

Stars: Elia Suleiman, Manal Khader, Nayef Fahoum Daher

Genre: Drama, Romance, War, World Cinema

Length: 93 minutes

Cinema: 17 January 2003

Country: France/Morocco/Palestine

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