Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Deprived of Dignity

Paradise Now (2005) - Abu-Assad
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Rarely one sees a good political thriller that humanizes its characters. Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assan does an amazing job at portraying two childhood friends/would be suicide bombers from Nablus, the Occupied Territory. The film is neither a by-the-numbers, robotic Paul Greengrass actioner with the apologist bent nor a satirical black comedy.

Two underemployed friends- sad eyed Said (Kais Nashef) and happy-go-lucky Khalid (Ali Suliman) are chosen to be martyrs. They will blow themselves up in Tel Aviv tomorrow. Just like that. They are not to talk to anyone about it. They seem to be not only resigned to the fact but giddy about the prospects, especially Khalid. After some technical snafu, they finally tape their video statement wherein Khalid gives his mom the tips where to buy water filters. They get half-hearted congratulatory remarks by the leaders, haircut, dinner, suits, the works. With bombs strapped to their chest, their plan gets thwarted by sudden appearance of Israeli Military vehicles at the border fence. Khalid safely gets back in time but Said is left near the border and gets lost. He unwittingly becomes a fugitive.

The film buys some time for two men to think about their options. The appearance of Suha (luminous Lubna Azabal of Incendies, Here), a woman from a well to do family, returning from Europe shakes things up a little bit. Paradise Now is a great balancing act, avoiding pitfalls of heavy handed political statement without ever losing sight on showcasing the mindset of the people whose dignity has been taken away by the occupation.

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