Paradise Now

| September 16, 2005

I saw this movie two weeks ago and I am just now able to write the review. Here is the problem… I am Jewish and this film is about two Palestinian men who are about to blow themselves up in the middle of Tel Aviv.
Can I tell you how good a film this is without feeling like I am betraying my faith? If, by giving this film a positive review, am I helping the Palestinian cause move forward? My decision was that I need to get over myself and tell the truth, so here it goes…
Paradise Now is being released by Warner Independent Pictures in September. If you get a chance to see it, you should because while it is clearly a one sided film, it does tell a good story that I hope, one day, is looked at as such a depressing part in human history that people felt they had to blow themselves up in order to reach paradise instead of finding it here on earth.
Said and Khaled are childhood friends living in the West Bank city of Nablus who have been chosen for this mission as a team because each had expressed a wish that if either is to die a martyr, the other would want to die alongside his best friend. They spend their last night at home, although they must keep the secret from their families.
As can be the case, a beautiful woman can send other thoughts into a man’s head and when Said meets Suha the day before he goes on his mission, it is apparent that there is a budding romance between them… Talk about bad timing. But yet, situations sometimes conspire to work against us. The following day, Said and Khaled are lead to a hole in the fence that surrounds Nablus, where they are to meet a driver who will take them to Tel Aviv but the plan goes wrong and the two men are separated. It is Suha who discovers their plan and who will cause them to reconsider their actions.
Paradise Now was filmed on location in Nablus, Nazareth and Tel Aviv and not without many problems. Constantly watched by both sides and ending up in the middle of real world military actions, the crew of 70 was in danger and not one day went by without their having to stop filming. Nothing like the real world intruding to keep you in character. The acting in the movie is wonderful, and I am betting that if I understood their language, it would be more powerful.
Because of my personal biases, I thought I would end this review with the words of the director, Hany Abu-Assad when asked if he anticipated that Israeli or Jewish groups might find the film sympathetic to suicide bombers: “I understand that it will be upsetting to some that I have given a human face to the suicide bombers; I am also very critical of the suicide bombers, as well. The film was simply meant to open a discussion, hopefully a meaningful discussion, about the real issues at hand. I hope that the film will succeed in stimulating thought…No one side can claim a moral stance because taking any life is not a moral action. The whole situation is outside of what we can call morality…”

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