A young woman, Suha (Lubna Azabal) passes through check point into Palestinian territory, probably Gaza. Two young men Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman) work at a car repair shop where Suha comes to pick up her car. Said and Suha flirt with each other and she decides to leave it overnight. Later Khaled manages to get himself fired.
That evening a well-dressed man Jamal (Amer Hlehel) comes to Said’s house and tells him now is the time for Said and Khaled to ready themselves for a suicide bombing mission to Tel Aviv the next day. Both young men had volunteered and they wanted to do it together.
Later that night, Said wakes and goes to take the keys to Suha’s car back to her. As he slips them under the door, she wakes and they have coffee together. It is obvious they are attracted to one another, even though Said’s father was shot as an Israeli collaborator while Suha’s father is a Palestinian hero.
That day the men go to an abandoned tile factory; explosives are taped to their chests and videos are made of their last words. Neither of the men appear religious at all.
Jamal takes them to a crossing point, but something goes wrong. Khaled makes it back to Jamal’s car, but Said comes back and then re-crosses the border. When he sees a small child on the bus he is to take, he decides to go back to the Palestinian territory. Jamal raises the alarm when he cannot find Said; he and his men do not know if Said has betrayed them or what. Khaled demands time to search for his friend. He finally arrives at Suha’s house and they go searching together. Suha guesses what is afoot, and begs Khaled not to do this thing because nothing will change. They find Said at his father’s grave.
This gritty, haunting film makes you feel like you are there – the bombed out areas, the dirt, lack of clean water; the oasis of a home amid ruins, led by Said’s loving mother, the futility of terrorism and the uncertainty, the finality of death for a cause the young men are not totally convinced is right. Said sees no alternative; Khaled holds on to Suha’s arguments as a lifeline.
The film is short, intense, and the scope is narrow – it is not trying to take on the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict but implictly questions the rationale of all suicide bombers. It is a close-up on these two handsome young men, who may be a little manipulated by others who will live, never having to make a martyr’s video. The thing is, real martyrs don’t choose death; it chooses them.
Paradise Now is good filmmaking (by director Hany Abu-Assad) and hopefully is evoking much conversation about just alternatives to this decades-long increasingly desperate situation throughout the entire Middle East and elsewhere.
Dialogue and negotiation are the ways to resolve conflict and assure peace….