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Straight out of acting school and into his first role playing one of the two leads, Kais Nashif landed the role of a suicide bomber in Paradise Now, in a portrayal that avoids stereotypes, thanks to his brother and the film’s director, he tells Andrew L. Urban.

In the time honoured tradition of young actors waiting for their break, Kais Nashif, a handsome young man from Tel Aviv, was working as a barman when he won the role of suicide bomber Said in Hany Abu-Assad’s powerful new film, Paradise Now. Another young man came in and asked for a beer at the bar, and the two men began a casual conversation. “What do you do?” asked Nashif.

"a measured and intelligent approach"

“I’m an actor,” came the reply, “and I just got my first movie.” Nashif smiled: “So have I! Mine is a film called Paradise Now. I play a suicide bomber.” The other man gaped. “Me too!” The other actor, Ali Suliman, plays his lifelong friend Khaled, in a film that tackles a hotly contemporary issue and take the heat out of it by a measured and intelligent approach.

Nashif had just finished a four year acting course; Paradise Now is the debut for both actors, and it couldn’t be a tougher start. Abu-Assad had spent an entire year trying to find the right actors.

They play two friends at the centre of the story, who lead a normal life, working together in a garage and never discussing politics or religion. Having some time ago volunteered to become suicide bombers they learn they have been chosen for the next mission and that it will begin in just 24 hours. But the carefully designed plans go awry as the two men are separated and cannot communicate. They have to face their destiny and their own convictions.

“The film should be seen, discussed and argued about by those who care about conflicts in our region,” says Katriel Schory, the Artistic Director of the Israeli Film Festival. His comments reflect the film’s attempt to provide a snapshot of opposing views on the sensitive subject of Palestinian suicide bombers attacking Israeli civilians.

Nashif says he was surprised by the script because “most films of this nature are crying about the situation and playing up the victims, but not this one.”

To prepare for the role, Nashif didn’t practice suicide missions, but his brother, who lives in Germany, coincidentally lectures on the subject as part of his psychology course. “Our director Aby-Assad did actually meet and talk to some suicide bombers who had failed and he says he couldn’t find a single profile that would fit them all. He wanted me to approach the character without any of the stereotypes in mind …”

Nashif also spent some time as a mechanic in the actual garage used as a location, “to learn about body language.”

"an exceptionally demanding role"

It’s an exceptionally demanding role for an actor’s first film, especially as the two characters are the lead roles and carry the film entirely. “I understand how a performance should be like a sculpture; this was first ever film and I learnt lots from my mistakes – both from what I got right and from what I got wrong,” he says. “I liked it intensely.”

Ironically, Nashif had enrolled in acting school without “thinking too much about it. I thought you meet nice girls there. And at school I had done some acting in plays and they said I was talented – and I believed them!”

Published October 27, 2005

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Kais Nashif


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