Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Paradise Now poses a problem for the Academy
You can read my reactions to the sympathetic portrayal of Palestinian suicide bombers, Paradise Now, by clicking here. The film has resurfaced as an Oscar contender, but a problem has arisen: given that Palestine doesn't actually exist, what country should it be said to come from?
It will be odd if the film wins an Oscar; it’s surprising that it’s been nominated. What could it possibly mean? Are Americans displacing their guilt at completely fucking over Iraq by sympathizing with Palestinians? Is the fear of terrorism a factor, or, given recent history, are more people simply becoming conscious of the problems in the region, and trying to extend sympathy to the underdogs? The film is admirable in ways, and worthy of consideration, though as I said when I first saw it, I think it is not an entirely honest treatment of the subject.
Speaking of not being entirely honest Roger Ebert wrote a review of it here, and offered a wish for the film that seemed to me, on consideration, truly bizarre, saying, "What I am waiting for is a movie about a suicide bomber who is an atheist, who expects oblivion after his death and pulls the trigger after having reasoned that the deaths of his victims will advance a cause so important that he, and they, must die. When religion enters into the picture, it clouds the meaning of the act: How selfless is your sacrifice if you believe you will be instantly rewarded for eternity?" I emailed his Answer Man column to point out how strange this is; how can religion possibly be factored out from a treatment of suicide bombing, when it is, in fact, so central? He is, in effect, wishing the movie were less honest than it already is. He didn't print my letter, alas.
Afterword: anyone interested in Paradise Now would probably be fascinated by this interview with Ali Suliman, who plays Khaled in the film.