Friday, June 09, 2006

Paradise Now


Dir: Hany Abu-Assad (Another Day in Jerusalem)

Omri has already posted a very careful and insightful critique of this film, so I will refer you to him for plot summary.

Paradise Now is everything Munich could/should have been but was not (also see Ron's review). It is gripping, it is fair, it is politically challenging, it is above all a fantastic story and a work that manages to both entertain and make a point. I really loved it and believe that anyone interested in politics or human rights should see it.

Do not be fooled by the flat first twenty minutes or so, when the would-be suicide bombers have one last night to be with their families. I think much was lost on me in cultural translation, but I was not invested in the characters at that point. It is after the mission begins that the movie gets really good. On its own, the plot generated a lot of tension in me, with many possible lines of resolution and the script letting out key motivations for the characters at unexpected moments. The story got more complex, we came to see how all of the viewpoints articulated by the various characters make sense for them, and this depth makes the film great viewing just on its own.

But Paradise Now is even better as a political document. While Omri notes its omission of the Israeli perspective, he also notes the nuance from within the Palestinian perspective about the various approaches to their cause. The important thing, in my mind, is not representation of the entire controversy, but a faithful and illuminating representation of the issue as seen from the subject position of the characters. This is a film about Palestinians, and rightly tells the story from their side. But it also critiques the actions of everyone, the suicide bombers and the peace activists, the cowards and the crazy, the zealots and the level headed. This is what stories give us, the chance to step inside another person's world and in so doing learn more about the human condition. The contrasting views on the efficacy and morality of terrorism present a full panoply of the issue, and let the audience appreciate the society's struggle as well.

Paradise Now, read with my eyes, is an interventionist plea for peace while at the same time condeming the material conditions that make terrorism possible in the first place. And it is, of course, correct. Killing and poverty, occupation and jihad, all are things the world would be better off without. The film very skillfully implies the existence of another route to resistance, even at the same time understanding those who take more aggressive tactics; understand, never condone in my mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I am confident I will continue to think about and cite this movie as an important document in the history of political filmmaking. I strongly urge everyone to see it.



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 6/09/2006 02:10:00 PM that...

How does this compare to the sophisticated Battle of Algiers? An eaqually complex assessment of terrorism and fight for a "homeland"?