the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Friday, May 05, 2006

Paradise Now

For the past year or so, I have been writing film and TV reviews at Here are synopsis' and links to those reviews.

Could a more important, relevant and complimentary film to Munich have come out in 2005?

In an era in which international relations have been reduced to only the colors of black and white, it was a courageous and risky undertaking to make a film that goes to great lengths to humanize terrorism. Like last year’s Downfall about the final hours of Adolf Hitler, Paradise Now risks offending its viewers by daring to suggest that even those who do great evil are human beings with very real motivations and reasons. What they do with those motivations may be ghastly, but comprehension, especially comprehension of one’s adversary is always instructive and illuminating. Only slightly less important as comprehending ourselves.

This Palestinian film follows two best friends who are recruited to become suicide bombers. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Academy Awards, Paradise Now lost to South Africa’s Tsotsi. Many feel it was simply too controversial to seriously compete. For weeks before the Oscars, scores of misguided critics who saw the film as little more than an apologia for terrorism railed against its inclusion and stumped about the evils of the film wherever people were willing to listen.

Sadly, they simply did not understand the film nor the intention of the filmmakers behind it.

Paradise Now is not a dangerous film because it in any way praises the work of those who would strap bombs to their chests and blow themselves up in areas crowded with innocent people. It is a dangerous film because of its objectivity. Director Hany Abu-Assad intentionally peels away the stereotypes to look at the people who commit heinous actions as, first and foremost, human beings. When they decry Israeli tactics and methods and praise the actions of suicide bombers, does not this sort of talk ring true? Have we really gotten to the point where realism is now branded propaganda? If those sympathetic to the Israeli cause are stirred to anger over pro-Palestinian comments in the film, do they also think those in the other ideological camp should become enraged when another of the primary characters decries the actions of suicide bombers as utterly futile and counterproductive? Sadly, too many of us want to hear, read, and watch those things with which we agree or that agree with us rather than indulge in something that is truly “fair and balanced.”

L.A. Times critic, Kenneth Turan said it best: “[Paradise Now] gets its strength from its dispassion, from an uncompromising determination to explain rather than justify or condemn, to put a human face on incomprehensible acts.”

Realism means things don’t always end up for the best. Realism means there are gains and there are losses. Realism means there are not always happy endings. Realism means truth is not the exclusive domain of one side alone.

That Paradise Now came out in the same year as Munich, a film about Israeli reprisals for a Palestinian terrorist attack is a bit of filmic serendipity. The films operate in a sort of celluloid dialogue, asking and answering each other’s questions… and raising all new ones. Both films invite a fearsome fascination and force honest viewers to confront the beauty, ugliness, injustice, and wickedness in every single one of us.

To read the full review, click here.


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