Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
You may have noticed the posters for Swarthmore’s Israel-Palestine film series around campus or, as it usually goes, missed it among the plethora of every other poster screaming for attention.
However, I definitely think you should consider taking note of them. Last Wednesday, there was a viewing of the Academy Award nominated film, Paradise Now. Stressed and busy, I rushed right at 4:15 having just “penciled” the film in. Not considering anything other than simply crossing it off my to-do list, I impatiently waited for the film to start. As Professor Sa’ed Atshan, who is in charge of the film series, introduced the film and the subtitles began, my mood changed. Casual attention turned to captivation.
Paradise Now is a film about two childhood friends, Said and Khaled, living in the West Bank who volunteer as suicide bombers. They are recruited for a suicide attack in Tel Aviv. The film takes place in the 48 hours prior to the attack. Khaled is initially enthusiastic and Said is noticeably hesitant. Both confront serious questions of faith, love, morality, and justice as the attack nears. After a failed first attempt upon crossing into the Israeli border, Said flees from his handlers. Khaled searches desperately all over Nablus for Said.
The expectation of the tomorrow is reinforced throughout the film, causing the suicide plans of the two men to stand in stark contrast. Suha, who Said falls in love with, causes him to address issues of destiny and justice. Suha urges for peaceful resistance, saying, “resistance takes on many forms,” and that killing only justifies more killing. Fate and God drive both men as they grapple with the ideas of good and evil.
Paradise Now was released in 2005 and was directed by Hany Abu-Assad, a Palestinian man. Nablus was the set for much of the film. At one point during filming, a land mine exploded 300 meters away from the set. Then, at another time, Israeli helicopters launched a missile attack on a car near the cast and crew.
Abu-Assad has said, “If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do it again. It’s not worth endangering your life for a movie.”
The film won a Golden Globe for the best foreign language film, and was nominated for an Oscar in the same category.
Of the film Abu-Assad said, “The film is an artistic point of view of that political issue. The politicians want to see it as black and white, good and evil, and art wants to see it as a human thing.”
Clearly, the film is extremely controversial as it depicts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and puts a human face to terrorism. Although divisive, the film appeals to everyone through its unadulterated portrayal of human suffering. The pain of the film and the struggle of its characters is almost tangible. At the end of the 90-minute film, my heart ached and eyes stung.
The human quality to the film is remarkable. As Said and Khaled grapple with good and evil through the film, the audience is forced to do the same.As viewers, we are left with no clear answer. Rather, the film reveals that it is much more complicated and nuanced than that. Perhaps morality cannot be distilled to black or white, good or evil. Perhaps in all of us there is grayness, a capacity for good and evil at the same time.
For anyone who has not seen the film, Paradise Now is a must. You will be a more thoughtful, insightful person for it. November 4th is the last day of the Israel/Palestine film series. Eyes Wide Open will be playing that Wednesday at 4:15 P.M. in the LPAC theater. These films are important in our personal understanding of this conflict through a lens that emphasizes the human rather than the politics of it all.
Featured Image courtesy of www.cinemaescapist.com