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Friday, December 16, 2005

 

Paradise Now: Contradictions on Many Levels

I wrote about Paradise Now last spring when I saw it at the Frankfurt Film Festival. Director Hany Abu Assad was present and took questions from the audience.

Here is an interesting take on Paradise Now by Bassem Khader, who recently saw the film.

I have just come from seeing the Palestinian-produced movie, Paradise Now, and would loke to share some impressions with you.

It is probably well-known by now what the main theme of the movie is -- suicide bombing. But what makes the film a masterful piece of art are the contradictions juxtaposed next to each other, which come across as sub-themes. Consider first the title: Paradise Now and compare that to the Hell Now that is the occupation. Second, for those who understand Arabic, the choice of the Palestinian vernacular used, particularly by the would-be bombers Said and Khaled, is significant. It is the language used by the fellaheen and the working classes. Compare that to the language used by Suha, the daughter of Abu Azzam a member of the elite. You could tell she was educated in foregin institutions: her Arabic is heavily accented. She is also the one that argues against suicide bombing, not unlike some of the Palestinian 'intellectuals' who took an ad in the papers some time ago also to argue along the same lines. The implication there is that those people are somewhat divorced from the masses.

The contradiction between physical conditions in Palestinian areas and Israel could not be starker. The refugee camp, just outside Nablus, is like a prison with deteriorated facilities and destruction all over. Everywhere you try to go, there is a checkpoint. Israel on the other hand has its wide boulevards and manicured parks and beaches.

Yet another sub-theme of contradictions is: collaboration on the part of the occupied matched by corruption on the part of the occupier. "How could 'they' be the oppressive occupiers and convince the whole world they are the victims?" wonders one of the would-be suicide bombers aloud.

The film captures life under the occupation poignantly, and also portrays Palestinian generosity of spirit, hospitality and sense of community. The scenes in the car repair shop, coffee house, and homes are true to life. The movie is not without its moments of humour -- they come early o, before the tension mounts. But they are best left for you to discover and savor.

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