Palestinian Cinema Essay

Palestinian Cinema Essay

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Hamid Dabashi in his “Introduction” to Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema establishes Palestinian cinema as traumatic realism. The defining feature of traumatic realism is “The mutation of…repressed anger into an aestheticized violence - the aesthetic presence of a political absence” (Dabashi, “Introduction” 11). Here, aestheticized violence serves a political underpinning. Elsewhere in contemporary cinema, which is no stranger to aestheticized violence, directors focus on the aestheticization as such. Dabashi repeatedly singles out Elia Suleiman for special recognition among Palestinian directors. For him, Suleiman’s films are particularly attuned to the crisis of mimesis in traumatic realism (Dabashi, “Introduction” 21). Suleiman’s affinity to cinematically represent the crisis of mimesis, while still attending to the politically repressed leads to a unique aestheticization of violence, which focuses on narrative and cinematic means of stylization over finely polished visual representations found in modern consumer cinema.
In Divine Intervention, violence becomes aestheticized through narrative and cinematic absurdity. Instead of shying away from metaphor in a crisis of representation, “when reality becomes…too unreal to accommodate any metaphor,” Divine Intervention takes metaphor and stretches it to its logical limits, where a piece of fruit becomes a bomb to represent the suppressed anger in Palestinian society. The lack of establishing a central point of view from the outset of the film further adds to the incongruousness of the narrative is. Suleiman achieves this by focusing on a neighborhood of characters at the beginning of the film, delaying the formation of focalizing point that would structure the na...


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...thoritative narratives do not allow space for critical reflection. Instead, they require a passive, uncritical individual to fully work.
Elia Suleiman’s cinematic reflexivity and poetic structure provide him the means to work through the crisis of mimesis while attending to political particularities of the Palestinian occupation. His style resists totalizing and appropriation by other narratives. It effectively critiques Israeli state violence by opening the violence up to questioning and reinterpretation, but the film does not move beyond questioning. In leaving his film open to interpretation, Suleiman refuses to provide answers to the questions he opened in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Any attempt at providing an answer to the questions raised in the film would push the film towards a totalizing narrative and weaken the poetic structure of the film.

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