Sunday, January 08, 2012

Paradise Now (2005), a Palestinian film, speaks of dilemmas of the oppressed

The film was shown on UTV World Movies channel on Sunday (Jan 8) evening. It was slated as a Persian film whereas it was an Arabic language film. It is in many ways a terse film where each face is stricken with suffering. But there is humour, dark humour. The partial hero of the film, Said, is aware that he is the son of a collaborator who was executed when Said (Kais Nashif) was 10. His mother tells him that he died for the family. Then there is Suha, who returns to West Bank, and people tell her that her father was a martyr. She tells them that she would have preferred him alive rather than a martyr.
A photographer in his studio tells Said that he will not take picture of a person who does not smile. The video cameraman shooting a prepared statement of a suicide bomber with gun in one hand, and reading out the statement in the other is made to repeat his speech and gesture again and again as something is wrong with the video camera. The chief operator tells Said that it does not matter because he can do it better in the second take. The heroine, Suha (Lubna Azabal), is travelling in a taxi and the driver asks her whether she is married and tells her that she does not look like a women from the place. When she asks him put up the window glass because it is windy, he tells her that the electric system is not working and therefore the glass cannot be put up.
There is an intense dialogue between Suha and Said. She says what will be the difference between oppressor and victim if the victim kills the oppressors. She reminds him that the suicide act does not alter the situation. He says it is better to die rather than live as a victim. She tells him that there is no Paradise to go to after death.
Said states the point poignantly when he tells the brain behind the suicide bombings, Khaled (Ali Suliman), that Israel the oppressor has succeeded in painting itself as a victim. And the victim -- the Palestinians -- have no choice but to be victims and killers.
It has been interpreted as a movie making a plea for peace and end to Palestinian terror. The film directed by Palestinian-Dutch director Hanny Abu-Assad has won the Golden Globe for the Best Foreign Language film in 2006 and it has also been nominated for an Oscar in the same category. But the film shows more clearly the desperation of Said to redeem his father and himself, Suha's argument about the futility of it all does not hold hope but it is another voice of desperation. She says that other ways have to be found but she does not have much to say about the other ways.
What the film shows in all its starkness is the politically accursed existence of Palestinians and the insecure lives of the Israelis, beautifully shown in the final frame of the film where the Israeli soldiers travel in the bus in which Said the suicide bomber is sitting too. The film opens with Suha passing an Israeli checkpoint where an armed Israeli soldier checks her identity and her bag as she crosses over into West Bank. What the film captures brilliantly is the claustrophobic Palestine-Israel universe.

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