Paradise Now

Fueled with the idea that being chosen as martyrs would guarantee the two a ticket to heaven; they contend that under the occupation they are already dead. They try to justify by reminding themselves that inequality should by fought, and that death is far better than being inferiorated. Leaving work, the two go to Said’s house to spend the night. Unbeknownst to their families and friends, it is possibly their last supper together. In the middle of the night Said leaves to see Suha, (Lubna Azabal) the woman he met while fixing her car. Unlike Said and Khaled, Suha –daughter of a very revered Palestinian suicide bomber– was raised in Paris and Morocco with European morals and standards.

Said’s unofficial farewell to Suha turns into a discourse on the ethical issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict. When Suha learns that Said was among the participants who burned the Revoli movie theater, she is disconcerted. Terrorism and suicide in the name of freedom is unreasonable for her; killing innocent people, burning a harmless theater can in no way solve the political conflicts in Palestine or guarantee passage to an imaginary paradise. Yet, Said also has a valid point: if one’s life is hell, even the idea of a paradise will be enough.

In the third act of the film Said and Khaled –with bombs strapped tight to their chests– go over the Israeli border to follow through with the strike. Things go wrong and Khaled comes back to the West Bank while Said is AWOL. Once they reunite, Said restores confidence with the Palestinian organizers and they set out with the plan one last time.

The film in essence is not preaching for either side of the border. In an interview Abu-Assad describes the hardship and terror the crew faced while filming on location in Nablus. He states, “In Nablus, the Israeli Army invades the city almost everyday to arrest what they call the “Wanted” Palestinians. At day-break the invasion starts with tanks rolling in, gunshots and rocket attacks and in the evening there is a curfew.” Adding to the travesty of the conditions, Palestinians kidnapped the film’s location manager. Considering the situation the film crew faced over the few months they spent in occupied Palestine, one can get a sliver of a clue of what these suicide bombers are fighting for.

Abu-Assad’s “Paradise Now” is not a film that aims to justify the acts of suicide bombers. On the contrary, it is a film that seeks to shed light on the story of innocent Palestinians. Why and how these innocent people partake in terrorist acts, –or rather are left with no alternative than to sacrifice their lives for what they are forced to believe– is for the viewers to speculate.

As the film’s tagline proposes, “From the most unexpected place, comes a bold new call for peace.” The acting is heartfelt; story is grasping, and in sum, “Paradise Now” tells the story of an occupation as pure and fair as it can be told.

Rating: B