Paradise Now, In Theaters

Hany Abu-Asad’s Paradise Now opened in select theaters this past weekend. The film is about two young Palestinians, Said (Kais Nashef) and Khalid (Ali Suliman), who are called upon by an unidentified terrorist group to become suicide bombers. They are given very short notice, and are quickly taken in and outfitted with bomb belts. Will they go through with the plan? Or will they listen to the entreaties of Suha (Lubna Azabal), a young woman both men have a crush on? It’s a story of love and loss, loyalty and violence, sacrifice and redemption. It also happens to be a very good thriller.

While we’re busy following Said and Khaled, we get a glimpse of life in the West Bank, with its trash-filled streets, dilapidated houses, and omnipresent road blocks. Several characters spend time worrying about water filters. People look up when an ambulance speeds by, and then return to their teas. A video store carries tapes of suicide bombers’ parting words and collaborator executions. A couple of kids try to fly a kite with a Palestinian flag on the back.

Paradise Now is powerful, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and beautifully directed. The occasional didactic moments are there, to be sure, but overall this was still a wonderful movie, one I can’t recommend enough.

I highly recommend Lorraine Ali’s report in Newsweek of her visit with filmmaker Hany Abu-Asad for the movie’s Tel Aviv premiere. Ha’aretz has a long, thoughtful piece about the movie and its director. Even the New York Times delivered words of praise. So do yourself a favor and go see it.