109 minutes| France-Italy-U.K.-Belgium| 2009| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema

Six decades in the fortunes of a Nazareth family unfold in this reflective, often droll autobiographical chronicle, as writer-director Elia Suleiman captures the experiences of the minority Arab community who’ve remained in the Jewish state. From the bloodshed and shame of 1948 when the mayor surrenders without a protest and Arab ‘freedom fighters’ run for the hills, Suleiman offers us vignettes of 1970, 1980 and on to today, picturing the stasis and inherent paranoia in being what the filmmaker terms a ‘present absentee’. His directorial sensibility however favours pointed deadpan observation over emotive tub-thumping, often staging the action as a series of bitterly amusing tableaux – like the Arab calmly putting his household rubbish in the bin across the street while an Israeli tank follows his every step. Suleiman’s own delightfully lugubrious presence (think Buster Keaton!) also plays no small part in a film that speaks of the pain of living a half-life, but does so with grace, dignity and humour. (Notes by Trevor Johnston)

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