Conflict of Interest

Paradise Now

Kais Nashef, Ali Suliman, and Lubna Azabal star in a
film written by Hany Abu-Assad, Bero Beyer, and Pierre Hodgson, and
directed by Abu-Assad.

With violence in the Middle East escalating at an exponential
rate, making a film about Palestinian suicide bombers is a bold
move. Both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict opposed
Paradise Now, and for good reason: In the film, neither side looks
particularly good, or emerges morally victorious. The movie is much
more true to the issues, and therefore much better than that.

The film stars Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman as Said and
Khaled — respectively — a pair of Palestinian friends chosen for a
suicide bomb mission. We follow the duo for the two days leading up
to their mission: budding romances, philosophical debates, the
final nights spent with their families, and the filming of their
farewell videos. The acting is stellar, the story is engaging, the
characters are sympathetic, and the plot has plenty of
suspenseful — though not overplayed — twists and turns. But as a
film about what’s happening in Israel right now, the movie comes up

One of the few films appearing on the big screen in the U.S.
that’s even set in the West Bank (a zone occupied by Israel but
hotly contested by many Palestinians, who consider it theirs) much
less depicting the conflicts there, Paradise Now had a unique
opportunity to explain why people are willing to become suicide
bombers. Abu-Assad could have shown how poor the conditions in the
West Bank really are. He could have elaborated on the importance of
religion in the day-to-day life of regular Palestinians, and
therefore the powerful appeal of eternal salvation that martyrdom
promises. And with his intimate look at Said and Khaled’s lives,
and the mundane details of signing on for a suicide mission, the
film seemed perfectly poised to do just that.

Instead, the intimacy serves only to remind the viewer that
suicide bombers are just real people, frustrated by their
circumstances (also a powerful revelation). It doesn’t help us
understand how real people come to do such horrific and terrifying

Still, it’s certainly a movie worth seeing. Were it part of a
long line of films depicting this conflict, Paradise Now would be
absolutely satisfying in and of itself. And actually, if we’re
lucky, that’s what it’ll end up to be. ■


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