Review by Willard Manus
NOW puts a human face on suicide bombings. The film, directed by a Palestinian,
Hany Abu-Assad, and produced by a gaggle of European companies (joined
by Palestinian and Israeli entities), tells the story of two friends,
Said and Khaled, who live in the war-torn, poverty-stricken West Bank
and volunteer to put on explosive vests, cross into Israel and blow themselves
up in crowded, downtown Tel Aviv.
On top of
that, the shooting war between Jews and Arabs heated up during principal
photography in the Nablus encampment. There was a nearby missile attack,
repeated gunfire, intrusions by soldiers demanding to know what was going
It literally became a life-and-death struggle to finish the film. When some Palestinian gunmen kidnapped Abu-Assad's location manager and demanded that his crew leave Nablus, the director shut down the shoot. A half dozen of his European crew quit and went home. "I didn't blame them," said the director. "They did the right thing. Life is more important than a film."
Yet he and most of his team stayed and toughed it out. They obviously believed they were dealing with a film worth being brave for.
appealed to then-Prime Minister Yasser Arafat for help in obtaining the
location manager's release. Filming resumed in Nablus, but when a land
mine exploded 300 meters away from the set and the lead actress, Belgian-born
Lubna Azabal, fainted, Abbus-Assad knew it was time to split. He moved
the production to his home town of Nazareth, where new sets had to be
built, changes made to the script. The budget money ran out, causing filming
to be shut down again. Somehow additional funds were found and the movie
But it would be wrong to conclude that Abu-Assad has been content to make a propaganda film. Said's girlfriend Suha (Azabal) delivers a blistering attack on suicide bombing, the thinking and proselytizing behind it, the spurious belief that it will reward bombers with a direct pass to heaven. Suba's impassioned speech dissuades at least one of the two would-be killers. It also proves that there is wisdom, humanity and compassion on the Palestinian side, not just blind hatred.
Abu-Assad has also told his story in compelling, expert fashion. It is paced like a thriller but its characters have depth and heft. I found myself caught up in the story, moved by its suspense and power. Abu-Assad has also been well served by his actors and particularly by his cinematographer, Antoine Heberle, who has given PARADISE NOW a gritty, realistic look and feel.