Friday, December 18, 2009

Paradise Now - Award winning Palestinian Film الجنّة الآن

(from Wikipedia)

Paradise Now (Arabic: الجنّة الآن‎) is a 2005 film directed by Hany Abu-Assad about two Palestinian men preparing for a suicide attack in Israel. It won a Golden Globe for best foreign language film and was nominated for an Academy Award in the same category.
"The film is an artistic point of view of that political issue," Abu-Assad said. "The politicians want to see it as black and white, good and evil, and art wants to see it as a human thing."


Hany Abu-Assad and co-writer Bero Beyer started working on the script in 1999, but it took them five years to get the story before cameras. The original script was about one man searching for his friend, who is a suicide bomber, but it evolved into a story of two friends, Said and Khaled.
The filmmakers faced great difficulties making the film on location. A land mine exploded 300 meters away from the set.[2] While filming in Nablus, Israeli helicopter gunships launched a missile attack on a car near the film's set one day, prompting six crew members to abandon the production indefinitely.[3] Paradise Now's location manager was kidnapped by a Palestinian faction during the shoot and was not released until Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's office intervened.[2] In an interview with the Telegraph, Hany Abu-Assad said, "If I could go back in time, I wouldn't do it again. It's not worth endangering your life for a movie."[4]

Distribution and marketing

The Israel Film Fund is underwriting the film’s distribution in Israel.

Statements by the filmmakers

In Hany Abu-Assad's Golden Globe acceptance speech he made a plea for a Palestinian state, saying he hoped the Golden Globe was “a recognition that the Palestinians deserve their liberty and equality unconditionally."[5]
In an interview with a Jewish American Tikkun magazine, Hany Abu-Assad was asked "When you look ahead now, what gives you hope?", "The conscience of the Jewish people" he answered. "The Jews have been the conscience of humanity, always, wherever they go. Not all Jews, but part of them. Ethics. Morality. They invented it! I think Hitler wanted to kill the conscience of the Jews, the conscience of humanity. But this conscience is still alive...Maybe a bit weak...But still alive. Thank God."[6]
Co-producer Amir Harel is a Jewish Israeli, who told reporters that "First and foremost the movie is a good work of art", adding that "If the movie raises awareness or presents a different side of reality, this is an important thing."[7]



Paradise Now was the first Palestinian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. An earlier Palestinian film, Divine Intervention (2002), had controversially failed to gain admission to the competition, allegedly because films nominated for this award must be put forward by the government of their country, and Palestine's status as a sovereign state is disputed.[8] However, since entities such as Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and Taiwan have been submitting entries for years although they are not sovereign states with full United Nations representation, accusations of a double standard were made.[9]
Paradise Now was submitted to the Academy and to the Golden Globes as a film from 'Palestine'. It was referred to as such at the Golden Globes. However, Israeli officials, including Consul General Ehud Danoch and Consul for Media and Public Affairs Gilad Millo, tried to extract a guarantee from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that Paradise Now would not be presented in the ceremony as representing the state of Palestine, despite the fact it was introduced as such in the Academy Awards' official website.[10] The Academy Awards began to refer to the film's country instead as "the Palestinian Authority". This decision angered director-writer Hany Abu-Assad, who said it represented a slap in the face for the Palestinian people and their national identity. The Academy subsequently referred to it as a submission from the "Palestinian Territories".[11] In a further complication, Israeli writer Irit Linor points out that "according to internationally accepted conventions, the nationality of a film is usually determined by the country that invested in it - and that while the film was categorized by the Academy as representing Palestine, it was produced with European funds, by an Israeli-Arab director."[12]
On March 1, 2006, a group representing Israeli victims of suicide bombings asked the Oscar organizers to disqualify the film. These protesters claimed that showing the film was immoral and encouraged killing civilians in terror acts.[13]

Anti Semitic themes

In February 2006, Irit Linur, an Israeli novelist and screenwriter, pointed out to some anti-Semitic themes in the film.[14][15] Linur argued that the only Jew who has a speaking role in the movie is "Abu Shabab", the moniker of an Israeli Jew who take Said and Khaled to Tel-Aviv. Before they leave his car "Abu Shabab" wishes them "good luck" in Hebrew. "Abu Shabab" is supposed to be paid for transporting the suicide bombers only after the mission is completed. In this, the maker of the movie imply to the notion that Jews are greedy and will aid suicide attacks against other Jews for money, thus reflecting an existing theme inside Palestinian textbooks.[16]
Linur also drawed attention to another and more forthright example of an anti-Semitic canard, which is to be found in the conversation between Said and a Palestinian cab driver. The driver claims that Jewish settlers poisoned the wells by Nablus in order to harm the quality of Palestinians' semen. This accusation echoes the fib that the Black Plague was caused through poisoning of wells by Jews.[17] Again this accusation is reflecting an actual theme in Palestinian political discourse.[18]


Paradise Now has an 89% rating on the review compendium website Rotten Tomatoes.[19]
Stephen Holden, in his October 28, 2005 article in the New York Times, applauded the suspense and plot twists in the movie, and the risks involved humanizing suicide bombers, saying "it is easier to see a suicide bomber as a 21st-century Manchurian Candidate - a soulless, robotic shell of a person programmed to wreak destruction - than it is to picture a flesh-and-blood human being doing the damage."[20]
In February 2006, Irit Linur wrote that the film's use of sophisticated techniques and symbolism was used to present caricatures, recycle anti-Semitic myths and introduce Christological associations in the film.[21]


Academy Award

Golden Globe

Other awards won

Arabic only version - full length

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