BERLIN — The Berlinale awoke with a start Monday as “Paradise Now,” Hany Abu-Assad’s tale of two Palestinian suicide bombers, ignited what has so far been a languid competition lineup.
Boldly examining the life and motivations of two childhood friends who are recruited to carry out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, the Holland-based Palestinian helmer said his film did not take sides but illustrated the impact Israeli occupation had on Palestinian life.
The subject and the strong reaction to the film by festgoers could make it to a serious contender when the Golden Bears are handed out later this week.
Its unapologetic portrayal of two very human and sympathetic characters who decide to blow themselves up for the Palestinian cause may prove a difficult sell in some territories.
Pic, a Dutch-German-French co-production being sold internationally by Celluloid Dreams, won distribution support from the Israeli Film Fund at the Berlinale’s Co-Production Meetings Sunday, but it faces an uphill battle on its home turf.
“It could be that we get lots of support money but it may still be impossible to find a theater that will show it,” Abu-Assad said. “I would be very happy to show it to everyone, but the general Israeli view of Palestinians is ignorant and negative — they are all seen as terrorists.”
While impressed, one U.S. buyer said a purchase would depend largely on the reaction of major critics, who are scarce in Berlin.
Abu-Assad shot the pic on location in the West Bank city of Nablus, a decision he called “insane” because the crew often was forced to stop due to fighting in the area.
Palestinian thesp and Nablus native Ashraf Barhoum, on hand for the Berlin premiere, said the story accurately portrayed life in the city. “We all live in Nablus. We know the people. We didn’t need to do research. Our life is research enough.”