×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Smell Of Paradise

Polish documakers Marcin Mamon and Mariusz Pilis drop in on a succession of warlords, clan leaders, emirs and mullahs united by Dar al-Islam, "the abode of Islam," from Chechnya to the Afghan-Pakistan border, in the harrowing, eye-opening "The Smell of Paradise."

Polish documakers Marcin Mamon and Mariusz Pilis drop in on a succession of warlords, clan leaders, emirs and mullahs united by Dar al-Islam, “the abode of Islam,” from Chechnya to the Afghan-Pakistan border, in the harrowing, eye-opening “The Smell of Paradise.” Educational for jihad-junkies and neophytes alike, on-the-fly pic may be too grungy for bigscreen play but would rep a revelatory tube event in Western countries and could sustain good fest and ancillary life.

A decade in the making, this work is a testament to the tenacity and bravery of helmers, who travel from Kabul to Kandahar in search of prominent purveyors of the absolutist Islamic line: Believe in Allah and his teachings, or remain ignorant.

Co-helmer Pilis narrates in measured, Polish-accented English. Subjects profiled include former Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, who is seen watering his plants and playing Ping-Pong in his Qatar exile two weeks prior to being killed by Russian agents in February 2004.

“God doesn’t set territorial borders,” he points out. And, later: “Criminal politicians hide behind Christianity… Democrats in the West make laws that deprave people without limit.”

Pic then backpedals to a late 1990s talk with Chechen warlord and spiritual leader Hamzat Gilaev, who insists he’s fighting “for truth and justice.” He died in Dagestan mountain fighting two years later.

Jordanian emir Al Chattab avows “we strike only when someone attacks us or our faith,” while Chechen Mafia godfather Hozh-Ahmed Noukhaev asserts “the strength of Islam comes from the truth.” Other men profiled include Chechen terrorist Shamil Basaev and Afghan emir Ishmael Khan.

That many of these interviewees are now dead is a testament not only to the volatile place of these teachings in world affairs, but the ever-shifting tensions among the various factions. Though auds may have difficulty sorting out the geopolitical nuances, two thoughts are apparent: This is a violent milieu, and Westerners cannot access this information through conventional news channels.

In this light, pic plays like a high-stakes thriller, complete with murky linkages and furtive pronouncements. In the end, Western auds will come away with a better sense of why they hate us.

Tech credits are rough, which impairs the presentation, if not the impact, of the content. Helmers have been networking among the muhajedeen for a decade, and their films include “Allah Akbar Means God Is Great,” “The Price of Truth” and the upcoming “Chechnya: The Dirty War.”

Popular on Variety

The Smell Of Paradise

The Netherlands-Poland-Bulgaria-Denmark

Production: A Phanta Vision Film Intl., Amago, IST Films, VPRO, TVP, BNT, TVZ production. (International sales: Films Transit Intl., Montreal.) Produced by Petra Goedings, George Brugmans, Mariusz Pilis. Directed, written by Marcin Mamon, Mariusz Pilis.

Crew: Camera (color, Digital Betacam), Tomasz Glowacki, Jacek Januszyk, Andrzej Jaskowski; editors, Jaroslaw Kaminski, JP Luijsterburg; music, Michal Lorenc; sound, Mamon. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 8, 2005. Running time: 78 MIN. Narrator: Mariusz Pilis. (English, Russian dialogue.)

More Film

  • The Lighthouse, with Willem Dafoe, FICM.

    Willem Dafoe on Robert Pattinson, Choosing Roles, Acting as Adventure

    MORELIA, Mexico – Mindful of how his words could “turn into click-bait,” Willem Dafoe, in Morelia to present his latest film “The Lighthouse,” declined to comment about the looming advent of more streaming giants in the market. “It’s a complex question; we’re still forming ideas on how people see films and how films are being [...]

  • Motherless Brooklyn BTS Edward Norton

    Edward Norton Hails His 'Motherless Brooklyn' Crew for Their 'Career-Best' Work

    Edward Norton wrote, directed, produced and stars in Warner Bros.’ “Motherless Brooklyn,” but he’s quick to give credit to his behind-the-camera collaborators. Norton told Variety: “I think this is career-best work for some of these people.” The film is set in 1950s New York, and the team accomplished a lot on a budget of $26 million [...]

  • Jo Jo Rabbit Once Upon a

    Why Younger Actors Could Be Crashing the Oscar Nominations

    Tatum O’Neal was only 10 years old when she became the youngest actor to win an Oscar in 1974 for her work alongside her father, Ryan O’Neal, in “Paper Moon.”  Besides O’Neal, the only other young Oscar winners have been Anna Paquin, who at age 11 went home with the supporting actress Oscar for “The Piano” [...]

  • Marona's Fantastic Tale

    Tokyo Film Review: 'Marona's Fantastic Tale'

    “Everyone had the right to love and a bone.” That’s just one of the many canine insights served up by “Marona’s Fantastic Tale,” a dazzling expressionistic view of the world through the eyes of a stray dog who wants nothing more than those two comforts. Actually, the unassuming narrator (Lizzie Brochere) — who looks like [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' to Be Re-Released With New Footage

    Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is heading back to the silver screen. Sony Pictures, the studio behind Tarantino’s latest feature, announced the movie will be re-released with 10 minutes of additional footage, including four new scenes. The lengthier version of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which already clocked in at two [...]

  • Roadside Attractions co-presidents Howard Cohen and

    How Roadside Attractions Fights to Give Indies a Theatrical Path to Success

    In January, work and life partners Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff went to war. Their 15-year-old film distribution and production company, Roadside Attractions, engaged in heated rounds of bidding for four titles playing at the Sundance Film Festival — the Cinderella story “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” the Mindy Kaling comedy “Late Night,” the political documentary [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content