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Palestinian cinema

The Academy had to recognize Palestine as a nation. Only then could Hany Abu-Assad's film Paradise be nominated.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

[film] "If you are not afraid of death, you have control over life," says Saïd in the film Paradise Now, which will have a Norwegian premiere next Friday. In the film, we meet Saïd and friend Khaled, who live a gray and uneventful life during Israeli occupation, and then find that they have to bottom themselves and their opinions when their promise to sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers must suddenly be fulfilled.

Director Hany Abu-Assad now feels that the film he recorded for $ 14 million in Nablus and Nazareth is conquering the world.

  • The film meets with very different reactions. Some Israelis hate it and have called it a Nazi film, some Arab journalists think it is a Zionist film, while still others have said it is the best film they have seen and I think I write Palestinian history. Can you imagine a film meeting with such different reactions? says director Hany Abu-Assad to Ny Tid.


Paradise has just won a Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Film, and on March 6 it can collect an Oscar in the same category. In addition, Abu-Assad is in full swing with two new movie recordings in the United States. The Palestinian director has busy days in Hollywood.

  • LA Cairo becomes a small independent film about Arabs and our view of the American dream. The next film will be a major production, which will deal with the fear of "the others". Why do we fear strangers and people we know nothing about? I'm concerned about Arab Americans, a minority that has so far been pretty invisible on film. I like to give people who don't have a face, and there are many of them.

Like the Palestinian suicide bombers. We know best the aftermath of their actions, but Paradise now tells of the last 48 hours before the bomb blast. The film shows us two desperate and doubting men, in a tale of strong elements of black humor, seriousness and self-irony.

While Saïd and Khaled record their martyrs' videos, which will be sold over the counter in Nablus, Khaled is disturbed by the backers of the action choosing to take their lunch break at the same time, and Saïd insists that he forgot to tell her mom about where to buy the best ones water filters. The tip will be his last words.

Not black and white

  • Politically, people often want to portray the Palestine conflict in black and white, but my film is not political propaganda. It is not about hard news, but live people. I want to tell a story about someone who faces major personal challenges, as in any other film, that is. I have chosen to use the film language from the western and thriller films, while trying to create deeper and more versatile characters than normal in genre films.

The director is concerned that a film must also entertain, and believes that messages are something that postmen should take care of. Teaching, he leaves to teachers.

  • I'm no teacher and teaching is the worst thing you can do in a movie. It's far worse than just entertaining. Film is about storytelling, but one should avoid simplification and instead question established truths. I've created Paradise now to ask questions about the film's narrative language, the dilemmas you face when killing yourself with your enemies and whether our moral standards are universal, or whether they vary by place and situation.

Mideast trend

Among this year's Oscar nominations we find several political thrillers that go right to the heart of the inflamed conflicts in the Middle East. Steven Spielberg's Munich is about the Palestinian terrorist attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics, while Stephen Gaghan's Syriana (Norwegian premiere on March 10) is about corruption and power struggles in the Middle East gas and oil industry.

  • I didn't think Munich was that interesting, but Syriana is exciting and intelligent. I think the Middle East is only becoming more important to the entire world community, and I was genuinely excited about how critical and smart Syriana is. The best part is that it is made by Americans, who in the same film are accused of being an ignorant people. It shows that there is more openness in the United States to tell other types of stories nowadays.

Abu-Assad obviously dreams of an Oscar, but the nomination was a victory in itself. And these are not empty scraps, because in 2003 Elia Suleiman's Divine Intervention was excluded from the Oscar competition because Palestine "was not a state".

  • Palestine is not yet accepted as a state, but at least the Academy has accepted us as an artistic and independent nation. It is historical.

Hany Abu-Assad

  • Palestinian film director, born in Nazareth in 1961. Educated as an engineer.
  • Has lived in the Netherlands for the last 20 years.
  • Paradise now is his fifth film. It has, among other things, won the Golden Globe for best foreign film and was voted best European film during the Berlin Film Festival.
  • Will now make two films in the US.

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