Paradise Now

Synopsis & Film Details

Paradise Now is the story of two young Palestinian men as they embark upon what may be the last 48 hours of their lives. On a typical day in the West Bank city of Nablus, where daily life grinds on amidst crushing poverty and the occasional rocket blast, we meet two childhood best friends, Saïd (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman), who pass time drinking tea, smoking a hookah, and working dead-end menial jobs as auto mechanics.

Saïd’s day takes a turn for the better when a beautiful young woman named Suha (Lubna Azabal) brings her car in for repairs. From their spirited interaction, it is apparent that there is a budding romance growing between them.

Saïd is approached by middle-aged Jamal (Amer Hlehel), a point man for an unnamed Palestinian organization, who informs Saïd that he and Khaled have been chosen to carry out a suicide strike in Tel Aviv. Saïd and Khaled have been preparing for this moment for most of their lives. They spend the last night at home – although they must keep their impending mission secret even from their families. During the night Said sneaks off to see Suha one last time. Suha’s moderate views, having been educated in Europe, and Saïd’s burgeoning conflicted conscience cause him to stop short of explaining why he has come to say good-bye.

The following day, Saïd and Khaled are lead to a hole in the fence that surrounds Nablus, where they are to meet a driver who will take them to Tel Aviv. When they are intercepted at the Israeli border and separated from their handlers, a young woman who discovers their plan causes them to reconsider their actions.

An international co-production and winner of multiple prizes at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival, including the Amnesty International Award, the film was written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad (Rana’s Wedding).

Director’s Statement

I understand that it will be upsetting to some that I have given a human face to the suicide bombers; I am also very critical of the suicide bombers…. The film is simply meant to open a discussion, hopefully, a meaningful discussion, about the real issues at hand. I hope that the film will succeed in stimulating thought. If you see the film, it’s fairly obvious that it does not condone the taking of lives. In my experience, with the film since it screened earlier this year in Berlin, much of the talk and protest comes from the idea of the film and not necessarily the film itself.

The full weight and complexity of the situation are impossible to show on film. No one side can claim a moral stance because taking any life is not a moral action. The entire situation is outside of what we can call morality. If we didn’t believe that we were making something meaningful, that could be part of a larger dialogue, we wouldn’t have gambled our lives in Nablus.

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
2005, France, Germany, Netherlands, Israel; 90 min.
PG-13, for mature thematic material and brief strong language.


Critic Reviews

Hany Abu-Assad’s stark, minimalist portrait of two young Palestinian men preparing for a suicide-bombing mission in Tel Aviv is the kind of movie that takes away both your breath and your ability to get out of your seat.

Jack Matthews, New York Daily News
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These days, cinema doesn’t get any more relevant than Paradise Now, Hany Abu-Assad’s gripping and insightful drama about two Palestinian terrorists preparing for a suicide mission.

Timothy Knight, reel.com
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The film does not invite you to root for either side of the conflict, just to see these guys as human. It is almost impossible not to empathize with their intense personal struggle.

Liz Braun, Jam! Movies
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