Filmed by Palestinians in the midst of their conflict with the Israelis, Paradise Now, directed by Hany Abu-Assad, is a chronicle of two young men recruited for a suicide terrorism mission in Tel-Aviv. Yet even though the film clearly favors the Palestinians, it still raises questions as to the methods that they use, namely the violence that only perpetuates more violence. It is a violence that the crew of the film witnessed first hand, as they had to endure airstrikes and the kidnapping of a crewmember. Yet somehow, in the midst of all this conflict, the film manages to be more objective than you would expect.
The story centers on Khaled and Said, and immediately we begin to see how the story might play out. Khaled is more than willing to die for his faith, and while Said is also a firm believer, we can see that he has doubts about the methods that he is about to employ. Some of these doubts come from his talks with a lady named Suha, who provides the voice of passive resistance in the film. However, as the film progresses, the typical roles that Khaled and Said seem to inhabit in the beginning become blurred, leading toward the shocking yet inevitable conclusion.
From the outset, we can see that the film is definitely criticizing the Israeli “occupation”. The first scene in the film shows Suha crossing a border from Israel into Palestinian territory. The side she leaves is deserted and quiet, but the moment she crosses over she is in a crowded street with people walking and driving everywhere. Other conversations in the film reveal this bias, including a scene with an Israeli who is so unfaithful that he has no qualms about being paid to usher the bombers into Tel-Aviv.
Yet even though the film is pro-Palestinian, the story questions the logic of using unending violence as a solution to the problem. Suha is clearly championing peace, but other moments also highlight the objectivity. For instance, the path to the bombings is fraught with error; mishaps highlight the inherent flaws in the methods they employ. Even when they are filming their statements before their mission, someone forgets to put tape in the camera, and then the camera stops working entirely. Later problems involving the mission itself provide tension. Yet in the end, we see that the methods are not necessarily the problem, as is the white-hot passion that drives the act in the first place.
That passion is the real terror at work. But whose fault is it? Is it Israel, who crowds the Palestinians in as seen in many shots in the film? Or is it the Palestinians who stubbornly refuse the seemingly-futile means of peaceful negotiation? There is clearly no right answer, but this film gives an unparalleled look into the motivations of terrorism, which is at least one step closer to resolution.