|It Must Be Heaven|
by New Worker correspondent
The Palestine Film Festival returns to London next month, after a two year break, with a selection of feature films and shorts that reflects the culture and politics of a film industry that survives and even thrives under the oppression of Israeli occupation.
The festival fortnight kicks off on 15th November at the Barbican with the screening of It Must Be Heaven – a black comedy about a Palestinian film-maker who goes to the Europe and America to escape from the reality of his home life only to find constant reminders of what he left behind. Other screenings at the Barbican include Stranger at Home – a classic but rarely seen 1985 documentary about a Palestinian artist’s return to occupied Jerusalem, and a programme of five sci-fi shorts by well-known Palestinian directors.
The Palestinian film festival began in 1998 as a student project at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). It has since grown to become a major focus for Palestinian cinema on the London cinema scene. This year’s venues include the Barbican, Curzon Soho and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA).
Directed by Elia Suleiman, It Must Be Heaven won critical acclaim at the recent Palestinian Cinema Days festival in Ramallah and it has now been nominated for the 2020 Oscars.
Suleiman said that he didn't make the film for the Oscars but to meet a vision he believes in. “I think I made the film not for the Oscars, I made the film because of the content of the film and because of the necessity to make this film,” he told reporters.
An Oscar nomination would normally require a costly promotion, international distributors and the support of not just the audience, but cultural organisations and national parties.
Palestinian Minister of Culture Atef Abu Seif, who was behind the nomination, said that the film would put Palestine on the world cinema map as one that tackles international affairs, not just local issues. He said he was proud that Suleiman's film was the debut of the Ramallah festival, which would encourage the cinema industry in Palestine.Palestine Cinema Days was held in Ramallah in the Palestinian ‘autonomous’ zone in the West Bank earlier in the month. Festival spokesperson Khalid Badawi said that: “Despite all the abuses of our rights, we insist on our basic right of access to culture, production and cinema, and despite the very poor infrastructure that we face, we insist that we are the best producers, we have our productions, our film and film-makers that we are proud of. This is the stage, the event where we present what we produce to the world.”