Paradise Now has received much attention and recognition, and the reasons for this run long. First, it deals with a very timely and sensitive topic – suicide bombing. Without a doubt, it cannot be denied that the 9/11 bombings have harbored an intense interest regarding terrorism among people not just in the United States, but around the globe as well. This interest must have fueled the rise to popularity of Paradise Now. Apart from the well-timed topic, the film also tackles one side of the ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.
This conflict is also an important interest among many as it acts as an alternative viewpoint. What probably garnered much consideration for the film however, was its style of presentation. Technically, it can be noted that Paradise Now was much of a documentary and less of a fictional work of art. Unlike most terrorism-themed films which are filled with stereotypes and cliche scenes of suffering, destruction, and good versus evil scenarios, Paradise Now seemed like a neutral, informational piece of work that was made to give the audience a glimpse of the lives of terrorists and nothing more.
Its simplicity makes it less predictable and more atypical. Moreover, the fact that it only focuses on two Palestinians and not on the general suicide bombing scenario makes it appear like a reality-TV, believable and tolerable but apparently scripted. As noted by its director, the film’s aim was “to show people things they don’t know already” (quoted in Johnston, 2006). Watching the film and coming across the two auto mechanics working at the West bank auto repair shop, one would be surprised to know that these pair of regular-looking slackers would actually be the suicide bombers.
The genuine geniality possessed by these two would not have been mistaken as part of a terrorist plot for the destruction of hundreds of lives. The relationship between this pair – the intense friendship that sparked since their childhood days will often be linked with more pleasant scenarios – dreams, family values, and more, not terrorism. The intimate and humane presentation of Said and Khaled however becomes a desperate attempt to bring about hope to an otherwise depressing environment.
For example, they are employed in dead-end jobs, with no sign of progress in the near future. What’s more is that their families and community are in a very miserable situation clouded by poverty, torture, and shame. Khaled’s father was maimed by the Israelis while Said’s was killed for being an Israeli collaborator. Such situations enhance empathy and consideration from the audiences, and this harbors more interest. Also, the film’s focus on distressed situations of Said and Khaled nevertheless reduced the terror of suicide bombing into personal horrors and sufferings.
The dilemma and problems posed by the dangers of suicide bombings to the general population are reduced as the intimate details of anxiety, hesitation, worries, and personal motivations of the two main characters are significantly modified. For example, instead of the death of hundreds of people, the destruction of million-worth properties, and the suffering of the relatives of suicide bombing victims; the film just tackles the personal struggles of the two – their supposedly last night with their families, their boring job, and Said’s love interest, Suha.
In relation to the somewhat “partial” treatment of the suicide bombing issue is the question of the real motive behind the making of the movie. As noted by an article written by Donald Macintyre, there are some critics who claim that the film tones down the effects of suicide bombing, and thus, promote the work of terrorists (Macintyre, 2006). Since the film does not show the gory effects of suicide bombing to the victims (apart from the suicide bomber), one can claim that perhaps the film actually tolerates such terrorist activities and ignores the “voice of the victims”.
On the other hand, the lack of carnage on the film may be regarded as an attempt to oppose the stereotypical view regarding Palestinian bombers as mere blood thirsty demons. It may be that the film scenes which show good values such as friendship and love have actually humanized terrorists. To a certain extent, the story of Said and Khaled just explores reasons and steps towards the accomplishment of an extensively ‘evil’ plot, without actually equating the story to a battle of good versus evil.
In Paradise Now, there is really no identifiable villain and those who are about to perform destructive actions are actually the protagonists of the movie. Moreover, the deeply personal motives behind the bombing make the characters easy to empathize with. Another noteworthy point in the story is the fact that it somehow alters the common conception that faith is the primary reason behind suicide bombings. As the movie dwells into personal bombing motives, it negates the argument that the terrorists engage in suicide bombings because they believe such is right.
Works Cited Paradise Now (movie), 2005 Johnston, Sheila. “I risked my life to make this movie”. The Telegraph UK Online. 07 Apr 2006. 28 June 2009. <http://www. telegraph. co. uk/culture/film/3651426/I-risked-my-life-to-make-this-movie. html> Macintyre, Donald. “Israelis petition to stop suicide bombing film from winning an Oscar”. The Independent UK Online. 4 March 2006. 28 June 2009. <http://www. independent. co. uk/news/world/middle-east/israelis-petition-to-stop-suicide-bombing-film-from-winning-an-oscar-468539. html>