“This movie is not screaming…I will not force people to change their minds.”
Hany Abu-Assad’s 2005 film Paradise Now portrays the complex psychology behind Palestinian suicide bombers. The filmmaker traveled to the Walker in October of the same year to introduce his film and field questions after the screening. Though born in Israel, Abu-Assad identifies as a Palestinian director. He shoots his films on site—frequently risking physical danger—and employs a Palestinian cast and crew. Aside from the subject matter, controversy played out when the film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film as an entry from Palestine. After complaints from Israelis and defense from Abu-Assad, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to list the film under “Palestinian territories.”
Though Abu-Assad comes from a distinctly Palestinian perspective, Paradise Now eschews a clear moral agenda. The film offers no commentary on its protagonists’ motivations to become suicide bombers and does not prescribe a specific emotional reaction. The narrative ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, denying viewers any spectacle. Audience members had many questions for Abu-Assad at the post-screening discussion. There was lively debate about what constitutes a political film and what role cinema plays in changing the collective conscious. A full recording of the discussion is housed on the Walker’s website.
Abu-Assad’s latest work is 2013’s Omar: the story of a young Palestinian freedom fighter who must scale a wall to visit his girlfriend. This film was also nominated for Best Foreign Language film (this time listed under Palestine) at the 86th Academy Awards.