‘Paradise Now’ a powerful look at Middle East

Gabe Gott

Lubna Azabal, as Suha, and Kais Nashef, as SaA_d, hang out on a hill in Paradise Now.

Credit: Ben Breier


Paradise Now

Staring Kais Neshif, Ali Suliman and Lubna Azabal

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad

Released by Warner Independent Pictures

Stater rating (out of four): ****

Kaboom! An explosion tears through the crowded streets of Tel-Aviv. People scream as dust and smoke fill the air. Suicide bombers have struck again.

The film Paradise Now follows two long-time Palestinian friends who have grown up in the West Bank city of Nablus under the strict rule of the Israeli army. The two friends, SaA_d (Kais Neshif, of Alemby Romance) and Khaled (Ali Suliman, of The Syrian Bride and The Barbeque People) work as auto mechanics.

Jamal (Amer Hlehel, of Join the Hummos and Jacob), of an unnamed terrorist organization, informs SaA_d that he and Khaled have been chosen to carry out a strike as suicide bombers in Tel-Aviv the next day.

SaA_d and Khaled wanted to die as martyrs together if either had been chosen to do so. Suha (Lubna Azabal, of Changing Times and Exiles), who is SaA_d’s love interest, finds out and tries to talk the two out of it.

The movie is powerful and heart-wrenching; anyone who follows what is happening in the world should see this movie. It is attention grabbing from beginning to end, even though it is not in English. The subtitles are easy to follow though.

The acting is good, and the script was well written. The only problem is that it won’t be shown in many theaters because it is an independent movie. The scenery in the movie is amazingly beautiful.

Paradise Now shows the hardships and the discrimination that the Palestinians living in the West Bank have to endure. It helps a viewer relate to their anger, and scarily depicts how desperate they are to gain freedom from the Israelis. The anger and the desperation drive the characters in the movie to become suicide bombers.

The movie depicts that most Palestinians aren’t suicide bombers; many are opposed to it and are trying to find alternative means of gaining freedom from the Israelis for the Palestinians. The suicide bombers are a minority.

An interview with Paradise Now director Hany Abu-Assad

It is easy to relate to the victims of terrorism – but what goes through the minds of people who perpetrate the attacks?

That is the question director Hany Abu-Assad asked when he decided to write and direct the movie Paradise Now.

“We don’t know anything about these people, their background, their thoughts,” Abu-Assad said.

A movie is a good opportunity to shed light on such things, he said.

Paradise Now was filmed on location in the West Bank and Tel-Aviv.

“We were in very physical danger. We were in a place where the Israeli army was surrounding the city. We could be killed easily there. We were a film crew so we were very visible,” Abu-Assad said.

In the movie, Tel-Aviv looked like a nice modern city while Nablus seemed more like a modern version of the Warsaw ghetto, surrounded by barbed wired fence and armed guards from the Israeli military. The Palestinians seemed like second-class citizens compared to the Israelis.

Although Abu-Assad is trying to show the world these things, there are no messages in the film.

“I think my film has no messages. I am trying to share experience, to share knowledge, to share beauty (and) to share mood,” Abu-Assad said. “Messages I leave for the postman.”

Paradise Now is not about changing either; it is about what is happening now.

“It’s a reaction on reality. It’s a painting you’ll want to watch 20 years from now,” he said.

The movie shows that there is more of a balance between the Palestinians and the Israelis in their conflict with one another, that one side isn’t better or worse than the other, and that both are wrong in some ways.

“This (the violence) will never end without total equality between the two sides,” Abu-Assad said.

Abu-Assad feels that the Palestinians will eventually get their own country.

“I don’t know when, but it’s going to happen,” Abu-Assad said.

It’s starting to happen now, he said. The logic of the Israeli’s power is failing – their country is not secure.

The violence shouldn’t be the reason to give the Palestinians their own country though, he said.

“A political solution will come based on justice. The two sides are equal,” Abu-Assad said.

Contact ALL correspondent Gabe Gott at [email protected].