The Time That Remains
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema November 15-16, 2011
Review by: Larry Thomas
Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman has created a film that plays like a narrative fictional feature, but is almost more like a recreation of home movies of his life and family. The Time That Remains begins in July 1948, with the creation of the state of Israel in what was then known as Palestine. Each segment is a different vignette that advances the time frame as the film progresses. We meet Suleiman’s father, mother, other family members, friends and neighbors.
Given the thematic material and location, there is quite a bit of The Time That Remains that is sad and mournful. But that edge of it is tempered with humor and many absurd situations. Suleiman brings us a highly personal, episodic story about Arab life in Israel, based on his own experience and his parents' letters and diaries dating back to 1948. Most of the film was shot in and near his family home in Nazareth, in Israel proper, not occupied territory.
There’s a running bit with one of father’s neighbors, a depressed, foul-mouthed old man, who’s favorite pastime seems to be to douse himself with kerosene out in the street, then threatens to immolate himself. Goofy…yes. But perhaps an absurdist view of a scenario that played out many times in that location for real.
The film looks nice, with terrific set decoration and photography. And it does have a good story to tell, especially from the perspective of people who really lived it.
My problem with The Time That Remains is that Sulieman’s style opts for playing out many of these vignettes at a snail’s pace, sometimes to the point that you may find yourself reaching for the fast-forward button. And like in real life, there’s a lot of repetition. No matter what the time shift may be, some of the events are exactly the same.
Nit picks aside, however, it’s an intriguing, sideways look at a subject that usually is treated with the utmost grimness. That alone is a breath of fresh air.
The Time That Remains is a presentation of Cincinnati World Cinema at Covington’s Carnegie Arts Center. Showings are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm. Doors open at 6:30 for a pre-film social hour. The post-film discussion will be led on Tuesday by NKU professor Andrea Gazzaniga, who teaches English, Victorian Literature, and Cinema Studies. On Wednesday, John Alberti, director of the Cinema Studies program at NKU will head the discussion.