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Paradise Now, Hany Abu-Assad (2005)

Said and Khaled are a couple of young, bored, and disaffected Palestinians living in Nablus. Normal young men, loving their families, dreaming of girls, working in a car repair shop, but, given the occupation, they live with a perpetual sense of being incarcerated: Said says at one point that he’s been allowed to leave the West Bank once in his life, when he was six years old and needed an operation.

This claustrophobia and helplessness, coupled in Khaled’s case with a streak of rebelliousness and in Said’s with lingering shame over his father’s collaboration with the Israelis, leads the two to volunteer for a suicide attack in Israel. But things don’t go smoothly. There are two attempts. In the first, it’s Said that panics; in the second, it’s Khalid. In both, the filmmakers do a very fine job of maintaining a strong sense of verisimilitude while at the same time evoking more abstract and metaphorical questions about the nature of the pair’s horrible errand.

All in all, I found this very impressive. It manages to take up extremely sensational and controversial subject matter and consider it with clarity and humanity.

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