movies, music and everything else

This blog is about pretty much what the title implies... movies, music and everything else.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

paradise lost

The tagline for PARADISE NOW is…
“From the most unexpected place, comes a bold new call for peace”.
Not only do I think this is misleading, but I think it is really manipulative.

PARADISE NOW is a movie about suicide bombers from Palestine. Most of the world would call them terrorists, but this movie asks that you look at them as people. When we meet Said and Kahled, they are poor mechanics living in the West Bank. Friends, looking for nothing more than a good job, some money and enjoying their time on the hillside smoking their hookah. Through this introduction, we not only get to know the two young friends, we get to like them. Said as the more level headed and intelligent one, and Kahled as the more reactive irrational one. There is even a love interest introduced with a young woman by the name of Suha. She is pretty, rich and well educated. This education came from outside Palestine, but now that she is back, she has caught the eye of our “hero”, Said. She represents an outside view of the situation between Israel and Palestine. The voice of reason, if you will.

Then the plot thickens…
Our two “heroes” are recruited for a bombing mission. Go into Jerusalem and carry out a plan that involves strapping bombs to their chest and killing as many people as possible. They are asked to sacrifice their lives for the greater good. What we are never told are the reasons for this action. Our lead characters are going to commit suicide, killing many people in the process and the only reason that we are given is retaliation. When asked if it will make a difference, there is no answer given. All that they can say is that they are steadfast in their cause and that violence is the only option.

This is where the movie lost me as a viewer. I was with Said. I liked him as a character. I understood that he had a difficult existence and that he hated the Israelis, who he saw as his oppressors. He was intelligent, well spoken and had a future. The fact that he was willing to throw it all away for “retaliation” made me mad. He knew that nothing was going to change because of this attack, but he is willing to go along with it anyway. He is set up as a man of reason and intelligence, but acts like a child that is told what to think and do. We are given personal reasons as to why he would go on this mission such as shame. His father had been a “collaborator” with Israel and brought shame on his whole family. By carrying out this act of terrorism, he will bring respect to his family. The other reason is that his life is crap the way it is and by killing people, he will be transported to “paradise”. That is nothing more than suicide. This is no motivation for terrorism.

Suha is meant to represent not only the voice or reason, but symbolize of the future that Said could be throwing away. He is interested in her, but he knows that he is to die, so he can’t pursue his own happiness. Why? Because he has to kill himself and innocent people. Why? Because he is told to. Not good enough. She argues for a peaceful solution, saying that the violent response will lead to nothing more than continued suffering. What she has to say is maybe the only poignant part of the film and it falls on deaf ears. Said dismisses it without thought or real consideration. This is not a tragedy, but stupidity and ignorance. Said has become a terrorist to me and not a person.

“From the most unexpected place, comes a bold new call for peace”.
The only thing that is unexpected about that place is that it is a region regarded by most of the world as one filled with terrorists. There is no real call for peace anywhere here. I went into the movie wanting to understand why. What could motivate people to commit such acts that make no sense to me? What I got was not an acceptable answer. Ignorance. Desperation. Just because is not a good enough answer either. This movie would have made a call for peace if perhaps we had seen the result of the bombing and that it accomplished nothing except for more death and destruction. In a way, this movie is successful in turning suicide bombers into real people, but they are not the people you can learn from. They are a warning sign.

If anything, watching PARADISE NOW made me sad. It made the case that the people of Palestine will not listen to reason or logic and that there is no end to the horrible violence in the region. Vengeance and retaliation is a mixed bag. It is one that does not lead to redemption and freedom, but of more persecution and death. There was another movie that actually dealt with the issue of vengeance and the repercussions that go with it. MUNICH. That movie takes a look at the price and result of vengeance and asks you to think. PARADISE NOW just takes two brainwashed young men and asks you to care about them and understand them when they don’t understand themselves. It is a movie that does not encourage thought, but pity and despair.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry that you were able to watch this excellent film and leave without any answers. Suha's perspective did not fall on deaf ears. The two most poignant scenes in the movie are when Suha talks with Khaled about his choices in the car, and when Said speaks with the leader of the extremist group about why he feels he has to go. I suggest you watch these two scenes again and open your eyes and ears to what they are saying. These two young friends are only brainwashed as much as we are into calling them terrorists. Terrorists to us. Heroes to them. This movie is meant to show those that consider them heroes what a better alternative is. It's too bad the answer isn't so simple.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Paradise Now Photos said...

I think this is the one excellent film I saw. Great Drama Film. The film is directed by Hany Abu-Assad. I love to watch this film again and again.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Paradise Now Online said...

The film was made in 2005. Paradise Now is an authentic film that poetically deals with one of the most prickly and difficult issues facing the world today. It is a natural and elegant film.

9:13 AM  

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