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Paradise Now - Preview

Paradise Now

Preview by Jack Foley

A GOLDEN Globe winning film about two Palestinian suicide bombers has continued to cause controversy in the wake of its awards success.

Paradise Now tells the story of two friends from Nablus in the West Bank, who volunteer to bomb Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv.

It was named best foreign language film at the recent Golden Globes and is now seen as a favourite to land the Oscar equivalent.

But while it has been widely praised on the festival circuit for its sensitive depiction of the subject, its producer, Amir Harel, has subsequently accused major Israeli cinema chains of shunning it.

The film can be seen in a lot of independent art-house cinemas and has drawn a good response from audiences, especially in the wake of its awards success.

But its subject matter has prompted many of the country’s major distributors to ignore it based on profit predictions that show it is not likely to make one (in their opinion).

However, the comments have angered Harel, who believes that cinemas are being put off showing the film by criticisms of the film voiced in Israel.

The Jerusalem Post, for instance, recently wrote that the film ‘humanises’ suicide bombers and made ‘heroes of villains’ – even though it did receive financial backing from the Israeli Film Fund.

“It seems the distributors have made a simple calculation, and decided they do not need the hassle of political demonstrations outside their cinemas,” Harel told the BBC.

The film’s director, Hany Abu-Assad, said that the point behind the film was to help people understand the environment and motivations that make ordinary people carry out such extreme acts of violence such as terrorism.

Risk threat

And the project was undertaken under the threat of great personal risk to all those involved. The film was shot on location in Nablus, one of the centres of Palestinian resistance, in the summer of 2004.

And filming was regularly interrupted by Israeli and Palestinian gun battles.

Israeli incursions were part of the daily routine and the crew was exposed to Israeli missile attacks on one side and feuding Palestinian militant factions on the other.

Indeed, as awareness of the film’s content grew, one faction threatened to take the foreign crew members hostage after becoming unhappy with the subject matter.

Such risks look to have paid off on the international market, and given its recognition at the Golden Globes. But both the producer and director remain keen for people in Israel to see it, so that it can stand a better chance of achieving its objective.

The film is due to open in UK cinemas later this year, when it should provide an interesting counterpoint to Steven Spielberg’s Munich, which is attracting a similar groundswell of opinion against it, particularly between Israelis and Palestinians.