THUMBS UP FOREIGN FILM REVIEW!
Neither bomber nor terrorist be.
Getting the "inside scoop" is a tough thing to do in a fictional tale on such a delicate subject. I have friends who are on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and I try equally hard to see both their views. But the things I could never get over were the constant incursions of the Israeli’s into Palestine, and the Palestinian radicalists who strap bombs to themselves and detonate their deadly selves in the middle of women and children. Regardless of my political standpoint, both of these things just felt ...well ...inhuman.
"Paradise Now" is refreshing in that it doesn’t ask the audience to take sides. We’re just along for the ride with two good friends, Said and Khaled, Palestinians who are given the task of strapping on bombs and destroying as many Israeli’s as they can (it’s noteworthy to mention that this "reaction" is in response to the death of a Palestinian). Politics takes a backseat here as we witness these two men turn from automobile mechanics to walking time-bombs; they don’t have a personal agenda, so to speak. They are out to do what is demanded "by God". But once armed and led into Israeli territory, things quickly go awry: an Israeli tank appears and threatens the mission. Said and Khaled get separated and the Palestinian militants who sent them on this mission begin to question their loyalties. Indeed, even Said and Khaled begin to question themselves. Why are they doing this? What will be gained? These are incredibly tough questions that the film plops into the audiences lap. And we get to see these things through the eyes of the two friends. The issue isn’t forced upon us in some docu-drama fashion. This is fiction but with a splash of personal and modern morality.
Hany Abu-Assad (director) deserves quite a bit of praise for his telling of this story. His gentle handling of this volatile subject matter held the perfect pitch: not forcing a message upon us yet getting a message across nonetheless. And that message? It’s more about friendship, loyalty, love and loss than political extremism. Oh sure, the politics are tucked into the background but it’s not (thank goodness) the focus.
And it’s no small wonder this movie was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars this year.