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Shaiful Alam

Dr. Susan S. Mckinney SSA, Junior

REVIEW | Paradise Now (2005) directed by Hany Abu-Assad

Paradise Now is a film released in 2005, directed by Hany Abu-Assad. It takes place in Palestine, specifically on the West Bank. Two young Palestinian men, Khaled (Ali Suliman) and Said (Kaise Nashef), are chosen to detonate suicide bombs in Tel Aviv. In an attempt to follow through with their plans they nearly get caught; as they escape back into the West Bank, they are separated. Khaled then goes on a wild goose chase looking for Said, because he fears that his friend may go through with the plans.

Overall, the film is artistically pleasing, and the scenery is captured in a sophisticated manner. The comparison between the West Bank and Tel Aviv is particularly captivating; the film provides real insight to those who don’t know the true nature of the West Bank. Abu-Assad contrasts the modern beauty of Tel Aviv with the bleak landscape of the West Bank as a means to show everyone living in modern, liberal societies that there is a world beyond Starbucks. In addition to the film’s amazing scenery, the way that Abu-Assad chooses to make Khaled and Said’s lives so very normal is powerful. He captures them smoking a hookah and drinking tea, which is a routine for young Arabs. This allows the audience to connect with them and to get to know them as human beings before they are given their deadly assignment.

Paradise Now, Ali Saliman (l.), Kais Nashef (r.)

The use of the camera in this film is not very unique. There are many excessively dramatic close-ups. For some reason, Abu-Assad brings a lot of attention to his camera work with the use of many sudden zoom-outs. In addition, the editing is often annoying; he places cuts at the most unexpected parts. It is a similar misuse of cuts and transitions that one sees in over-the-top Bollywood films. What gives the film its power are the performances from all of the actors, especially from Suliman and Nashef in the lead roles of Khaled and Said. For example, the audience truly feels the grief that Said was facing from his father’s early death and the fact that his father was considered a collaborator. I also truly enjoyed when Khaled was frantically looking for Said; the actor conveyed the tension in each moment. The performance of Lubna Azabal, who portrays Suha Azzam, was also very pleasing. She was successful in trying to convey her character’s message of peace, which is in direct contrast to the ideas of Khaled and Said. Ultimately, I think that she was the most important person in the film; her belief in fighting back without violence becomes a central theme of the movie.

The film had a huge impact on me because it showed me that although the actions of Khaled and Said were uncalled-for and barbaric, it is important to also see them as complex and even innocent human beings. The film suggests that as human beings, we all should show compassion to each other, regardless of the choices we make. The film helps the viewer come to understand that we all play the role of the victim and attacker, and that the line between “terrorist” and “freedom fighter” is often very thin. At the very end, we see that Said appears to have decided to go through with the original plan. He hops onto a bus in Tel Aviv; surrounded by Israeli soldiers and civilians, the camera zooms into an intense close-up of his eyes. The shot lasts for about ten seconds, although it feels like ten minutes to the audience. Finally, there is a blinding white light and the film is over. Abu-Assad chooses to leave it unclear as to what Said’s final decision was, but I assume that he went through with it. Perhaps the white light represents his perception of Paradise, hence the name Paradise Now. In the end, the film is flawed in many ways, but the message behind it is a bittersweet reality check that puts a very human face on actions that many would consider inhuman.