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A conversation with actor Ali Suliman

From his work on Hany Abu Assad’s Golden Globe winner Paradise Now (2005) to Ameen Nayfeh’s Venice-awarded debut 200 Meters (2020), Ali Suliman has constantly reinvented himself with every performance, intensely connecting with each character he portrays while shying away from stereotypical roles. In this Master Class, moderated by film critic Jay Weissberg, the Palestinian actor speaks about his diverse acting journey. Suliman reflects on working with Peter Berg and Ridley Scott in Hollywood as well as established filmmakers in the Arab world such as Elia Suleiman and Ghassan Salhab, while also lending his talents to support the careers of emerging Arab filmmakers including Emirati director Majid Al Ansari and Jordanian director Yahya Al-Abdallah.


About Ali Suliman

Palestinian actor Ali Suliman was born in Nazareth in 1977, the son of a family exiled from its village of Safouryia in Galilee during the Nakba of 1948.

After graduating from the Levinishtain Acting School in 2000, his first roles were in the theater, playing complex characters including classical drama and comedy. 2004 marked a qualitative shift in his career, he snatches the lead role in Hany Abu Assad’s Paradise Now, winner of a Golden Globe award and nominated for an Academy Award in 2005. The film also launched his international film career. In Hollywood, he gets to work with filmmakers Ridley Scott in (Body of Lies, 2008) and with Peter Berg (The Kingdom, 2007 and Lone Survivor, 2013), as with artist Kanye West in his short film (Cruel Summer, 2012). In the Arab World, he actively collaborates with Elia Suleiman, from Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996) to the acclaimed It Must Be Heaven (2019). His many acting credits include The Last Friday by Yahya Al Abdallah (Jordan, 2011), for which he is awarded Best Actor at both the Dubai and the Carthage film festivals in 2011 and 2012 respectively, Rattle the Cage by Majid Al Ansari (UAE, 2015) and more recently The River by Ghassan Salhab (Lebanon, 2021). For his role of Mustafa in Ameen Nayfeh’s feature debut 200 Meters (Palestine, 2020), he wins the Star for Best Actor at the 2020 El Gouna Film Festival.

Alongside an extensive career in theatre, which includes plays such as The Storm by William Shakespeare, Salomé by Oscar Wilde and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Suliman is also active in television. He stars in the American TV-series Jack Ryan (Amazon Prime video) and the miniseries The Looming Tower (Hulu) as well as well as the British four-part drama serial The State (Channel 4).


Photo at top: Ali Suliman ©Gil Eliyahu

About Jay Weissberg

New York-born Jay Weissberg lives in Rome and has been a film critic for Variety since 2003, travelling to festivals throughout Europe, the MENA region and Latin America. His work on contemporary cinema has appeared in numerous international publications, and he’s contributed essays for a host of festival and retrospective catalogues, with a particular focus on current Arab productions. As a film historian he’s written widely about aspects of silent cinema, is a co-curator of the Ottoman Film Project, and since 2015 has been director of the Giornate del Cinema Muto/Pordenone Silent Film Festival. A frequent participant of festival juries, he often takes part in panel discussions on the current state of cinema and film criticism, regularly moderates Masterclasses with filmmakers, and has mentored programs for young film critics worldwide. 

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