Paradise Now (15)

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
Written by Hany Abu-Assad, Bero Beyer and Pierre Hodgson
Screening at FACT from 12th May 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Though flagwaving Americans and Israelis will no doubt avert their eyes, Paradise Now offers front row seats in the heads of two would-be suicide bombers. It is the third film I’ve seen this year that has given us an unconventional look at terrorism. ‘Syriana’ and (to a lesser extent) ‘Munich’ also hinted at the trail of dominos that can make people do things normally dismissed as ‘evil’.

Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman) work in a car repair shop. They have known each other for years and their friendship is based on deep respect. After the Israelis assassinate a prominent Palestinian, the two are instructed to go on a suicide mission in Tel Aviv. Both have their doubts initially, and yes, both love their mums. But with the hell of occupied Nablus behind them and the promise of paradise ahead, they make it through the barrier. However, they are discovered, and Said is forced to go on the run.

Paradise Now has provoked a massive amount of bile from apologists for the Israeli government. After all, the ‘logic’ of the ‘war on terrorism’ is that we in the west are innocent victims being attacked by maniacs. It’s therefore impossible for those in power to admit that suicide bombers are people too. Why does anyone decide to die? There are as many different circumstances as there are suicides, but in the final reckoning, ‘to be’ seems worse than the alternative.

According to the Red Crescent, Israelis have killed nearly four times as many Palestinians as vice versa since the second Palestinian uprising began in September 2000. But that is only part of the story. Even more shocking are the terrible poverty and brutality that most Palestinians endure under the Israeli occupation. “The occupation defines the resistance”, as Khaled tells Said’s almost love interest Suha (Lubna Azabel).

Director Abu-Assad is not condoning suicide bombings, he is merely trying to get across the appalling suffering which produces them. By presenting all sides of the dilemmas facing many Palestinians, he throws down the gauntlet to the rest of us. If we have a voice, we must use it to spread the whole story, and take the fight to the US and UK governments, who continue to provide money and weapons for the Israeli war machine.

For more information, visit Palestine’s ‘weapon of mass instruction’ at:

Click here to read John Owen's review of Paradise Now.

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