I just learned that Hany Abu-Assad’s latest film, Paradise Now, is about to be released by Warner Independent. (Thanks Laurie!) Much of the film was shot in Nablus, and as you can see from the trailer, it gives a real sense of what daily life is like for Palestinians in the West Bank. The story concerns two young men, best friends, and their last 48 hours, as they set off on a “suicide bombing” mission (what Palestinians call “martyr operations.”) That a subsidiary of Time Warner would release such a film, written and directed by a Palestinian director, starring Palestinian actors (mostly Israeli citizens, like the director), and depicting the everyday conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank (including the separation barriers/apartheid wall), is truly remarkable and unprecedented. (New York Times film critic Stephen Holden gives it a "critics pick" in his review of the film.)
I’ve not yet seen it, but given Abu-Assad’s track record, I’m quite optimistic. His 2002 film, Rana’s Wedding (available from Arab Film Distribution), is marvelous, perhaps my favorite of all Palestinian films. It concerns the efforts of a young woman from Jerusalem to get married, and all the obstacles caused by the occupation and by checkpoints in particular. There are many very humorous moments, which are all the more remarkable because they arise out of terrible circumstances.
Given what Abu-Assad said in an interview about the film with Igal Avidan
and published by Qantara.de, we can be pretty confident that it deals with “suicide bombing” in a complex way, and is not simply a denunciation.
As long as the suicide attacks continue, Israel will not concede to any compromises, and the Palestinians will not get their own state. Do you agree with this view?
Abu-Assad: The suicide attacks are a consequence of oppression, which first has to stop. The Israelis forget that the occupation continued during the Oslo peace process.
Do you condemn the suicide attacks?
Abu-Assad: Why? I am against killing people, and I want that to stop. But I do not condemn the suicide attackers. For me, it is a very human reaction to an extreme situation.
Here are the opening dates announced thus far:
October 28: Los Angeles, New York
November 4: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C.
November 11: Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, Monterey, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, West Palm Beach
Warner Independent is also releasing (January '06) what promises to be another great film, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, written and directed by and starring Albert Brooks. (Sony backed out of distributing the film, fearing reprisals in the Arab world.)