A few weeks ago I wrote about a few Oscar nominated movies that sent Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer into a tizzy. I finally got to see one of them, Paradise Now, which Krauthammer called a "sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers". The film centers on Khaled and Said, two friends living in the West Bank town of Nablus, tapped to go on a mission to Tel Aviv.
Contrary to Krauthammer's assertion (and as proof that he probably didn't see the film) it's far from a sympathtic portrayal of the Palestinian resistance movement and the use of suicide bombing as an effective means of insurgency. It shows the human side of an action that most of us only experience the end result of via news outlets. Paradise Now brings to life not only the bombers, but the people they leave behind.
The film certainly has harsh things to say about how the Israelis treat West Bank Palestinians. It by no means, however, shows the resistance as a pure endeavor. The men leading the cells, those who send young men off to die, are not given a flattering portrayal -- Jamal in particular comes off as a cross between a smarmy and manipulative televangelist and used-car salesman...feeding his recruits an ersatz spirituality dressed up in promises of rewards in heaven. He is, thanks to one very effective shot, cast almost as a Judas to the cause of Palestinian self-rule.
Taken apart from its specific context, the film is as much about the fine line between conviction and doubt. In context it gives voice to those left behind, showing them to wish more that their loved ones were still with them rather than having willfully died and killed for a cause. The two lead actors, particularly Kais Nashef who plays Said, are riveting. The dialogue never gets too maudlin and the preachiness is kept to a minimum. Worth a spot high up on your netflix queue. Up next for me is The War Within, which covers similar ground but set in the context of a planned attack in New York City.