Yadon Ilaheyya (Elia Suleiman, 2002)

Although Yadon Ilaheyya* is generally tagged as a drama, it attains different genre conventions throughout.  It starts out as a film that progresses slowly with scenes that seemingly document the everyday life of several characters from a village at the Israeli border in Palestine.  The dialogue is minimal, images are realistic and the director’s interference with the action seems non-existent.  About half an hour into the film, we realise that the protagonist is a man (Elia Suleiman, the director himself) looking for ways to meet his lover who lives on the other side of the border.  As the film advances, it visits other genres such as comedy because of the ways in which the man’s efforts to cross the border are portrayed. The interactions with the Israeli security forces throughout the film are told in a parody rather than dramatic sequences. This lighter tone, emphasised at times with Palestinian pop music, leads to other surprises in narrational mode.  The pace gets much faster towards the end when we see the film evolve into a fantasy.

There is especially one scene in which with the use of computer generated images the protagonist’s girlfriend is turned into a Ninja-like warrior and she exterminates all the Israeli police forces in a manner similar to those found in video games.  This sequence could as well be from another film when compared to the documentary-like opening scenes.

Although the film’s switches from one genre to the other are surprising, it manages to utilise diverse generic elements within its entirety.  The subject matter that the film explores is delicate, serious and thought-provoking; the conflict between Palestine and Israel has not been resolved for almost a century now, resulting in the death of thousands.  The documentary-like opening scenes in the film convey the feeling of in-betweenness; seemingly time runs slower in this region, everyday routines are unusual, but people do not appear to feel insecure or anxious.  The realistic style in these scenes seem to connote the idea of waiting and the fact that anything can happen at any moment.  Meanwhile, by using comedy and fantasy in the rest of the film, Elia Suleiman critically points at the absurdity of some of the issues caused by the conflict while he uses filmic possibilities to illustrate his imaginary reactions and solutions.


*The title translates as Divine Intervention, which summarises the bizarre interventions in the film.  The transition from one genre convention to the other is so immediate and far-fetched that the only way to describe them is deux ex machina.

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