Directed by Elia Suleiman, Divine Intervention (2002) is an enthralling film which blurs the lines between documentary and fiction to create a gritty and nihilistic narrative that successfully tells the Palestinian story. In essence Divine Intervention is a series of non-linear episodes which lack interest in characterisation or plot, and focus more on cinematic techniques to convey meaning. The film’s characters live mundane lives which are fundamentally defined by the occupation; the director himself stars in it as a man who cannot see his lover because of policies and checkpoints that restrict their movement. 

Elia Suleiman, a Palestinian, is renowned for his ability to construct imagery relating to reality as parodies and packing them with political and social context. A rather mundane scene which portrays a disagreement between neighbours over rubbish being thrown between two gardens is particularly interesting in the way it portrays a stalemate; similar to that between the Israelis and Palestinians. 

Several scenes reference Suleiman’s belief in there being two types of occupation; the overt oppression within Gaza and the West Bank, and a psychological occupation which denies economic and human rights. A particularly enticing scene which shows Israeli soldiers firing at a cardboard cutout of a Palestinian woman which then materialises into a real human being and, when shot at, levitates with the bullets forming a crown around her head, is an interesting approach to expressing paranoia and psychological warfare. While a psychological occupation is difficult to represent, a physical one is not, as such Suleiman frames this ‘psychological occupation’ through surreal cinematic techniques.

The film features the Al-Ram checkpoint between East Jerusalem and Ramallah, which is also the checkpoint that separates the two lovers E.S. (Elia Suleiman) and The Woman (Manal Khader). The film indicates how undignified checkpoints and the tension within these areas are part of everyday Palestinian life. Land and identity are interchangeable in Divine Intervention, as such Suleiman outlines the loss of land and thus loss of identity through the changing landscape.

Divine Intervention is an enticing, effective and useful film for any film buff, psycho-analytical genius or just a person wanting to see the occupation in Palestine from the perspective of a Palestinian. Elia Suleiman is an innovative and daring filmmaker, whose work is nothing short of a masterpiece. 

By Ryan Coe