Born in 1960 in Nazareth, Elia Suleiman lived in New York from 1981 to 1993. While in the United States, he has directed his first two short films: Introduction to the End of an Argument and Hommage by Assassination, winning numerous awards.
In 1994, he settled down in Jerusalem, where the European Commission had entrusted him with the mission of creating a Film and Media Department at Birzeit University. His first feature film, Chronicle of a Disappearance, won the Best First Film Prize at the 1996 Venice Film Festival, Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize of the Cannes Film Festival as well as the Best Foreign Film Prize at the European Awards in Rome.
In 2007, he was chosen as one of the 35 directors of To Each His Own Cinema a collective film for the Cannes Film Festival 60th anniversary. In 2009 his last film The time that remains was in the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival. Elia Suleiman has participated in numerous Festivals as Jury member including Cannes Film Festival (2006), Marrakech Film Festival (2008) Paris Cinema (2010), and has been recently president of the New Horizons Competition Jury of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (2010) where he was awarded the 2009 Black Pearl Award and named the Variety Magazine Middle-East filmmaker of the year.
Elia Suleiman served as guest lecturer in many universities, art institutions and museums such as Columbia, NYU, Berkeley, Femis in Paris, as well as given master classes among others: European Film Festival in Cairo (Egypt) as Doha Tribeca Film Festival, Kustendorf Film Festival in Serbia, Berlin Biennale, Home Works Forum in Beirut, Tate Modern in London, Forum des Images in Paris. He is currently serving as faculty member of the European Graduate School in Switzerland and he is preparing to direct a segment untitled "7 Days in Havana," a collective feature capturing contemporary Cuba. Elia Suleiman has been given tributes among which are the MoMa in New York, Istanbul Film Festival, Estoril Film Festival in Portugual, Forum desImages in Paris. He was the recipient of the 1992 Rockefeller Award and the 2008 Prince Claus Award. His essays and articles have been published in English, Arabic and French.