‘Divine Intervention’ features at Rotterdam International Film Festival

The award-winning Palestinian film Divine Intervention, directed by Elia Suleiman, will feature during the Hubert Bals Fund Harvest at the showcase for contemporary world cinema, the International Film Festival in Rotterdam.

At the International Film Festival, which will be held from January 22 - 2 February, ‘Divine Intervention’ is nominated for the Amnesty International - DOEN Award, a prize for films about human rights. Other films nominated in this category are Cidade de Deus (Fernando Meirelles), Occident (Cristian Mungiu), Onibus 174 (José Padilha), Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce), Shadow Kill (Adoor Gopalakrishnan), Ten (Abbas Kiarostami), The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan) and Woman’s Prison (Manijeh Hekmat). The winner of the award will be announced on January 29 in Burgerzaal Doelen at 19.30.


Divine Intervention, winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes festival was disuaded from entering into the Oscar race by the Academy. The movie tells the storry of two lovers on both sides of an Israeli army post, who can only meet at the checkpoint.

In this tragi-comic chronicle about everyday life in Palestine, Elia Suleiman himself plays the taciturn and pretty miserable looking hero with the initials E.S. His fiancée lives on the other side of an Israel control post, so the two lovers can only meet at the checkpoint. Together they observe the world around them in silence.

Reality seems more absurd than the best joke. A man dumps his rubbish every day in the neighbour’s garden. A Father Christmas is molested by angry children. A balloon with the face of Arafat cocks a snoot at all the checkpoints and floats over Jerusalem, while on the ground, Israeli soldiers bungle around in an attempt to arrest the balloon.

A little later, we see Israeli soldiers exercising on a target in the form of a Palestinian woman. Suddenly a real ninja fighter looms up in front of them. The spectacular and cartoonesque action scene that ensues includes special effects that would not be out of place in The Matrix.

Comparisons have already been made with the films of Tati, Nanni Moretti, Otar Iosseliani, Roy Andersson and Buster Keaton, but that would not do justice to the idiosyncrasy of Suleiman’s second feature, that has a sour and melancholy taste in its political and personal element. Not without reason, the subtitle is A Chronicle of Love and Pain.

Divine Intervention was supported by the fund and this year’s Hubert Bals Fund Harvest is expected to showcase some 25 films that were made possible thanks to support from the fund.

The aim of the Hubert Bals Fund is to help realize the dreams of innovative and gifted filmmakers from developing countries. It is designed to bring their plans for remarkable or urgent feature films and creative documentaries on step closer to fulfillment.

Since its creation in 1988 the fund has supported well over 375 film projects in Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America.

Moreover, award-winning Divine Intervention director Elia Suleiman is the key note speaker of the Rotterdam Film Parliamant. After a 15-year gap, the International Film Festival Rotterdam this year revives its idea of the parliament, a gathering of filmmakers, producers, sales agents, distributors, buyers, programmers and journalists. The 2003 edition of the parliament is to initiate a debate about “What is to be done” about the crisis for the cinema that Rotterdam stands for. To be held on Sunday 26 January, the parliament will be chaired by Nik Powell. Other scheduled speakers include Michel Reilhac (Arte France Cinema), Cedomir Kolar (4 Productions), Christa Saredi, Fiona Mitchell (Migrations), Peter Sainsbury (Eidolon Pty Ltd), San Fu Maltha (Fu Works), Andrea Occhipinti (Lucky Red) and Hamish McAlpine (Metro Tartan Distribution).

In 1988, Rotterdam organized a first “film parliament” to gather the festival’s ‘family’ of filmmakers, producers, festival directors, sales agents and journalists to discuss the state and the future of cinema. One of the topics was the lack of sufficient international development funding for arthouse cinema. As a result of that Rotterdam Film Parliament the Hubert Bals Fund was founded as the first international script development fund.

A selection of Hubert Bals Fund supported films made in the past 15 years is set to tour the United States in 2003. The initiative is one of the special events organized to commemorate the Fund’s 15th anniversary in 2003.

Conceived as a tribute showing selections of Hubert Bals Fund-supported works, the US tour starts off next spring at the Museum Of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. While MoMa will present some 20 films that are considered highlights in HBF’s 15-year history, the Walker Art Center will show a selection of recent HBF supported titles. Additionally, in collaboration with the newly launched Global Film Initiative 10 HBF-films will tour several cities in the US.

The 25-title strong program will include the award-winning Divine Intervention, Madame Satâ, Abouna, Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono), Tan de repente as well as a number of world and international premières.

Divine Intervention is scheduled on January 24 (19.30, Pathé 1), January 26 (14.30, Cinerama 6) and January 31 (22.45, Pathé 5).


director: Elia Suleiman
produced by: Ognon Pictures, Humbert Balsan
sales: Flach Pyramide International
distributed by: Filmmuseum Distributie, A-Film Distribution
scenario: Elia Suleiman
length: 92’
language: arab/hebr
subtitles: dutch
medium: 35mm

Related Links:

  • View the Divine Intervention trailer (Quicktime, 3.7MB)
  • Rotterdam Film Festival
  • Rotten Tomatoes reviews of Divine Intervention
  • Internet Movie Database entry for Divine Intervention
  • Oscars’ double standard turns Palestinian film into refugee, by Ali Abunimah and Benjamin Doherty, The Electronic Intifada, 10 December 2002.
  • “Gaza Strip” director to return student Academy Award to protest exclusion of Palestine, by Ali Abunimah and Benjamin Doherty, The Electronic Intifada, 20 December 2002.
  • ‘Divine Intervention’ screened at Melbourne Film Festival, by Arjan El Fassed, The Electronic Intifada, 25 July 2002.