Arabic with English Subtitles
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Starring: KaisNashef, Ali Suliman, Lubna
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: M18 (Mature Content)
Date: 4 May 2006 Showing Exclusively at The Cathay
Cineplex (as The Picturehouse Selection)
PARADISE NOW is the story of two young Palestinian men as
they embark upon what may be the last 48 hours of their lives.
On a typical day in the West Bank city of Nablus, where daily
life grinds on amidst crushing poverty and the occasional
rocket blast, we meet two childhood best friends, (Kais Nashef)
and Khaled (Ali Suliman), whose paths are instantly altered
when they are recruited by an unnamed Palestinian organization
to carry out a strike in Tel Aviv. They 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. When they are intercepted at
the Israeli border and separated from their handlers, a young
woman who discovers their plan causes them to reconsider their
actions. This gripping and engaging film outlines the complexities
of the situation and explores the intensity of their relationship,
exposing their internal struggles during those final days.
Hearing another suicide bombing hardly seems shocking today. Virtually every day we hear about suicide bombings somewhere in the Middle East; likewise, cinematic bomb threats have supplied melodramatic events in numerous thrillers, often set up by faceless enemies. Yet this is a phenomena that has hardly been explored in feature films up close. Syriana offers a glimpse through the desperate and frustrated eyes of young Pakistani, but it only paints broad predictable strokes for his internal conflicts.
The news reports the facts, provides political and socio-economic background, and shares video of grieving victims. But there has to be more to the story. What is it that creates the mentality of a suicide bomber? How can they sacrifice their lives at such a young age? Of course, answers to such complex questions go beyond the scope of newscasts, but we now finally have a film that explores suicide bombers more intimately than ever before with Paradise Now.
Netherlands based Palestinian writer-director Hany Abu-Assad produces his most powerful film yet by allowing viewers to see the complicated West Bank situation from a suicide bomber's point of view during the entire 90 minutes. Even so, it does not offer a solution or even a strong point of view but simply tells the fictional story of two young auto mechanics - Kais Nashef as Said and Ali Suliman as Khaled - recruited to go to Tel Aviv for the mission who have thought about it for years, yet must keep it a secret from family and friends. Not content with simplistic portrait, Paradise Now succeeds fervently in developing nuanced characters who effectively demonstrate the wide array of views and feelings of its community.
We may not agree with their actions, but we do grow to understand them. And we're never sure exactly what either character is going to do for sure until the final moments. Said is developing a friendship and budding love interest with Suha (Lubna Azabal), a positive and cheerful Palestinian who strongly feels that bombing only hurts their cause and that suicide can't be justified theologically. Born in France and raised in Morocco, Suha still has great status in the community since she is the daughter of revered leader Abu Assam. She doesn't like Israeli roadblocks and their second rate status any more than any Palestinian, but she feels there are more effective methods of resistance.
The narrative proceeds primarily as character development until the original plans are foiled at a remote border by Israeli forces; it then turns into a thriller. One of them remains on the Israeli side and nearly boards a bus, but rejects the notion when he sees a small girl on board. With plans thrown into chaos, the leaders are overwrought and strongly hint that their two young volunteers may have to be executed as “collaborators” to preserve their cause. Can the leaders allow their volunteers merely return home after a botched mission when they know many secrets about the organization?
What emerges from Paradise Now is a compelling portrait of suicide bombers and the complex issues that surround the act, all brought to life by an excellent cast of little known Palestinian actors. Their charisma carries the film professionally while intimate knowledge of the subject material works to great advantage, providing a level of sincerity that would be difficult to duplicate otherwise. Those who think that suicide bombers only find the courage to carry out their act through religious promises of heaven are in for a surprise. The film's title may communicate this “shallow” idea, but its content clearly demonstrates that there's a great deal more to the concept. Religion alone doesn't supply the motivation. Our moral fibers are made up from a matrix of factors, and the key one may not emerge until severely tested.
Notwithstanding that criticism, I think the film is an engaging and important work, cinematically satisfying and perfectly well performed. I would love to think it will make a difference, even if only by making one Israeli and one Palestinian accept its message, which is really a plea to both sides to resume their humanity.
(A never seen before, engaging and tragic, intimate point-of-view of 2 friends on a mission.)
by Lokman B S