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> Naji al Ali (1936 - 1987), the cartoonist
> Jamal A. Kleibo, tourism developer
> Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan, founder A.M. Qattan Foundation
> Mohammed Marwan, Rap star
> Rima Merriman, university teacher
> Maysoon Zayid, actress and stand up comedian
> Rami G. Khoury, journalist and columnist
> Dr. Ayman Rabi, environmentalist
> Nasser Soumi, painter and installation artist
> Elia Suleiman, filmmaker
> Emily Jacir, filmmaker
> Michel Khleifi – Palestine’s Film Poet
> Mai Masri, filmmaker
> Sami Mustaklem, fireman
> Yusuf Diya’ al-Khalidi (1842-1906), mayor of...
> Omar Saleh Barghouti-historian, politician and lawyer
> Abdul Malik Al-Jaber, CEO
> William Nicodeme, composer
> Hossam Zuheika, puppeteer
> Adel Salameh, musician
Writer-director Elia Suleiman is now referred to as Palestine’s first movie celebrity. His low-budget, darkly comic film Divine Intervention has won critical acclaim and brought audiences to their feet and took away many film festival trophies.
Suleiman was born in Nazareth in 1960. He left school when he was 16 years old because of the difficult conditions in Palestine back then. He moved to New York in 1981, where he lived until 1993, returning to his native Nazareth in between. While in the United States, he frequently served as a guest lecturer in many universities, art institutions and museums. Meanwhile, he directed his first two short films, Introduction to the End of an Argument, and Homage by Assassination, winning widespread recognition and numerous awards.
Suleiman has received various awards and grants, including an ITV and a Ford Foundation grant. He was the recipient of the Rockefeller Award for work achievement. His essays and articles have been published in English, Arabic and French.
In 1994, Suleiman moved to Jerusalem, where the European Commission asked him to initiate a Film and Media department at Bir Zeit University. In 1996, he completed his first feature film, Chronicle of a Disappearance, which won the Best First Film Prize at the Venice Film Festival. This was followed by two short films, The Arab Dream in 1998 and Cyber Palestine in 2000. Suleiman’s second feature film, Divine Intervention, was in the official selection, in competition, at the 2002 Cannes International Film Festival, winning the Special Jury award.
Suleiman uses Israeli-manned roadblocks as a running theme in Divine Intervention, and even hired Israeli actors to play the soldiers - many of whom had served at roadblocks while in the army. Suleiman’s original and thought-provoking film comes across mostly as a series of vignettes. Many are disturbing, witty and poignant. Suleiman, who calls his film “a chronicle of love and pain,” plays the main character E.S. In Nazareth, under the guise of banal normalcy, the town embraces folly. Under pressure from his failing business, a man takes matters into his own hands and tries to break a chain reaction of petty feuds. He breaks down himself. The man is E.S.’s father. A love story takes place between a Palestinian man living in Jerusalem and a Palestinian woman from Ramallah. The man - E.S. - shifts between his ailing father and his love life, trying to keep both alive.
Because of the political situation, the woman’s freedom of movement ends at the Israeli army checkpoint between the two cities. Barred from crossing, the lovers’ intimate encounters take place on a deserted lot right beside the checkpoint. The lovers are unable to exempt reality from occupation. They are unable to preserve their intimacy in the face of a siege. A complicity of solemn desire begins to generate violent repercussions and against the odds, their angry hearts counter-attack with spasms of spectacular fantasy. In one scene, he sits in his car and inflates a red balloon featuring the face of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The balloon soars over the roadblock, headed for Jerusalem. The Israeli soldiers angrily request permission to shoot it down. But they’re so distracted that they miss a car slipping past them. The balloon reaches Jerusalem, stopping near the golden Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest shrines.
There are a few scenes in Divine Intervention that provide comic relief without any reference to politics. At the hospital where E.S.’s terminally ill father is being treated, a patient extricates himself from bed and shuffles into a corridor, where he lights a cigarette. Nobody stops him; everyone there - patients, nurses, and doctors - is on a cigarette break.
Suleiman has also acted in his other films, Homage by Assassination, Chronicle of a Disappearance and The Arab Dream. He has proven himself an essential voice in world cinema because his formalism is inextricable from the political moment it documents. At once intuitive and schematic, his movies are a pure expression of the Palestinian situation.
For the Cannes Film Festival’s 60th anniversary in 2007, Suleiman was one of the 35 directors from five different continents and 25 countries chosen to pay tribute, in three minutes each, to the motion picture theatre, that magical venue of communion par excellence of film lovers the world over. Suleiman’s entry, entitled “Irtebak” (Awkward) is about a filmmaker’s awkward paranoia in the aftermath of making a film.
This Week in Palestine