Paradise Now

Shot on location in the beleaguered Palestinian city of Nablus, filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad's (RANA'S WEDDING) fourth feature is a thoughtful, unsparing look at a controversial subject: suicide bombing. After an Israeli rocket blast kills two young Palestinians, Saïd (Kais Nashif) and his friend, Khaled (Ali Suliman), are called upon to perform an act to which...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Shot on location in the beleaguered Palestinian city of Nablus, filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad's (RANA'S WEDDING) fourth feature is a thoughtful, unsparing look at a controversial subject: suicide bombing. After an Israeli rocket blast kills two young Palestinians, Saïd (Kais Nashif) and his friend, Khaled (Ali Suliman), are called upon to perform an act to which they pledged themselves long ago. Come morning, they'll sneak across the border dividing the West Bank from Israel, enter bustling Tel Aviv and blow themselves up on a crowded city street. In their minds, they'll die celebrated martyrs to an important cause — freeing the West Bank from Israeli occupation — and will be ferried into paradise, where unearthly delights await. Khaled eagerly embraces his chance to exercise what little power he feels he has in the geopolitical struggle that has oppressed his family for generations. But Saïd balks; he's recently begun a flirtation with Suha (Lubna Azabal), the attractive daughter of the late Palestinian fighter Abu Hassam, but she herself has personally renounced violence. Saïd is also reluctant to leave his widowed mother (Hiam Abbass) to raise the rest of her family alone; the day-to-day realities of occupation have already made her life difficult enough. Nevertheless, Saïd joins Khaled at the abandoned tile factory where the terrorist group run by shadowy Abu-Karem (Ashraf Barhoum) has established temporary headquarters, and after they're washed, shaved and wrapped in enough explosives to murder a maximum number of Israelis, they're taken surreptitiously across the border. At the last minute the plan goes awry and the two friends are separated; Saïd, determined to prove himself despite his reservations, recrosses the border and heads for an Israeli bus stop. Khaled, meanwhile, searches for his friend back in Nablus, and begins to sense the truth of Suha's argument that one doesn't need to die to experience heaven: The paradise of a free and peaceful Palestinian state can indeed happen here on earth. Few actions have the shock value of a suicide bombing, and while Abu-Assad never defends the actions of his characters, he does try to communicate the sense of powerlessness and fatalistic frustration that lies at the root of such an action. He and cowriter Bero Beyer also deftly demonstrate that suicide bombers may be driven as much by personal reasons as by religious fervor or by the weight of historical forces that have torn apart their homeland for over half a century.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Shot on location in the beleaguered Palestinian city of Nablus, filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad's (RANA'S WEDDING) fourth feature is a thoughtful, unsparing look at a controversial subject: suicide bombing. After an Israeli rocket blast kills two young Palestinia… (more)

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