z”Chronicle of a Disappearance” – mcb

Corey Lehnert

Political films, if based on matters vague or remote to a Western audience, often suffer from a timeliness that threatens to throw them into obscurity for all but the certainly devoted, but admittedly sparse, crowd of history major film connoisseurs.
Elia Suleiman’s “Chronicle of a Disappearance,” a 1997 film about the period of calm in the Israel-Palestine conflict after the 1993 Oslo Accords, runs the risk of falling into this category, but it persists beyond its topicality.
Even though it is set during a period of time most Lawrentians find hazy at best, in a country that appears to have changed dramatically in recent years, the film remains a stylistically fresh and funny take on Palestinian identity.
Suleiman’s film is hard to describe traditionally, lacking any extensive narrative structure and following the lives of a number of characters only loosely connected at best.
Chronicling Suleiman’s return to Palestine after a self-imposed exile, the film is something of a black comedy divided into a series of episodic sketches of everyday life.
In one particularly biting segment, a priest offers his new spiritual perspective after commenting that the water Jesus walked on is now disturbed by speedboats and sewage pipes.
In another, the director, playing himself, stands to give a speech on Palestinian film to a Western European audience, only to be drowned out by microphone feedback.
Suleiman’s message isn’t just confined to comedy, however. By setting many of his scenes in centered and steady camera shots, he reinforces the notion of Palestinian identity as being trapped within prejudiced and static Western dialogues.
Through these sketches, Suleiman shows a picture of Palestinian identity that seems to have been lost in the aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11 and the demonization of “un-American” views of the world.
His perspective is at times politically critical, others almost apathetic, teasing out the quirks in life and reminding the audience, or at least the American audience, of just how human Palestine is.
After watching the film, in fact, I realized that I was expecting to see suicide bombers and references to radical Islam peppered throughout. “Chronicle of a Disappearance,” however, was a wakeup call for me, alerting me to media-enforced prejudices I didn’t know I had.
In this way, “Chronicles of a Disappearance” proves to be not just a humorous and amusing picture, but an eye-opening film regarding Palestinian identity.****”Chronicle of a Disappearance,” directed by Elia Suleiman. PN1997 .C576 2005****