Lifelong Palistinian friends, Said (Kais Nashif) and Khaled (Aki Suliman) lead a normal life, working together in a garage and never discussing politics or religion. Having sometime ago volunteered to become suicide bombers they learn they have been chosen for the next mission and that it will begin in only 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.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
You can't get much more timely or relevant than this, a film about two suicide bombers, long time Palestinian friends, nice guys too, coming face to face with their destiny. Said (Kais Nashif) is told before his suicide mission that his action "will change things" but neither he nor we are told how that change will be for the better. The two men are told that after they "rise to heaven" their families will be taken care of. Their martyrdom is appreciated. "We will always be with you." (Except when the bomb rips you apart and catapults your head across the street.) And after the deed, two angels will come and pick them up. Promise.
Writer director Hany Abu-Assad does his best to put both sides of the argument: Palestinians feel oppressed and shamed by the Jewish occupation (the word they constantly use to describe their circumstances), their desperation unable to find any other means of fighting back than suicide bombings. The murdered becoming the murderers, too, as Said explains it. The struggle must go on to try and effect their freedom. On the other hand, the suicide bombings do nothing to change their situation, except perhaps help prolong it by justifying Israel's reaction.
The politics are certainly fundamental to the film, and the debate is valid. Whatever your point of view, the film tries to illuminate this tragic impasse with the light of understanding. Abu-Assad's intentions are certainly honourable, and from his new home in the Netherlands, the view is probably more balanced and measured. This may account for the film's rather sanitised approach: the two characters are almost out context for the audience, lowly mechanics, living quietly, modestly. We see the militant managers who plan the attacks, but they two appear as disembodied figures, rather ordinary. Nobody gets hurt in the film, and when Said boards the bus in Tel Aviv, bombs strapped to his chest, most of the other passengers are Israeli soldiers.
These issues bleed the film of consequences - the very things that the voice of reason only speaks about, in words of the only woman who is heard in the film, Suha (Lubna Azabal).
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.
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KAIS NASHIF INTERVIEW
PARADISE NOW (M)
CAST: Kais Nashif, Ali Suliman, Lubna Azabal, Amer Hlehel
PRODUCER: Bero Beyer
DIRECTOR: Hany Abu-Assad
SCRIPT: Hany Abu-Assad, Bero Beyer, Pierre Hodgson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Antoine Heberle
EDITOR: Sander Vos
MUSIC: Jina Sumedi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Olivier Meidinger
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill Films/Aztec
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 27, 2005