Palestinian film in race for Berlin Film Fest award
15 February 2005, BERLIN - A feature film by a West Bank-born Palestinian director about two suicide bombers has emerged as an early favourite in the race the Berlin Film Festival's prestigious Golden Bear Award. "Paradise Now" was never designed to be a story about a continuing crisis and Amsterdam-based filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad says he is gratified that it is making its worldwide premiere in Berlin amid renewed hopes for peace. In a Berlin interview, Abu-Assad explains that he came up with the idea for t
15 February 2005
BERLIN - A feature film by a West Bank-born Palestinian director about two suicide bombers has emerged as an early favourite in the race the Berlin Film Festival's prestigious Golden Bear Award.
"Paradise Now" was never designed to be a story about a continuing crisis and Amsterdam-based filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad says he is gratified that it is making its worldwide premiere in Berlin amid renewed hopes for peace.
In a Berlin interview, Abu-Assad explains that he came up with the idea for the film in 2000 - prior to the September 11 attacks and ahead of the second "intifada" that got underway in 2000.
"The idea came to me during the period when the situation had settled down and people had hope," Abu-Assad recalls.
"It seemed the issue of suicide bombers would belong to history."
Alas, events in the Middle East showed the subject of suicide bombings would remain just as topical as ever.
"Making a film about the last 24 hours in the life of someone who is going to kill himself didn't just have to be a thriller," Abu-Assad explains. "It could be a gangster movie, a Western or a road movie."
Abu-Assad said he wanted to get behind the political right and wrong of suicide bombing to take a look at the human element.
"This reflects my nature as a Palestinian with all my conflicting elements," he says in an interview with Screen International's daily festival newsletter.
"I am an Arab in Europe, a Muslim in Nazareth, a Palestinian inside Israel and an Easterner in the West. But all these aspects live within me in respect and partnership, and they are the motor of my creativity. The 'confusion' allows me to see things from different sides."
Against that backdrop, the protagonists in his film are not portrayed as being either "good guys" or "bad guys".
"In American movies they never really respect the other side and you have the baddies and the goodies," he notes.
"The baddies are less intelligent and less everything, whereas the goodies are intelligent, good-looking and have humour. Thats NOT for me," he says.
"I think the hero becomes more interesting if his enemy is interesting. So I avoided any stereotyping and treated my characters as equals and intelligent humans through to the end," he says.
Just days after the Middle Eastern summit, Israel has offered a cinematic olive branch to the Palestinian filmmaker, by agreeing Monday to support distribution of a film about suicide bombers.
"Paradise Now" will receive distribution support from the Israeli Film Fund, according to an announcement at the 55th Berlin Film Festival.
The public agency may even release the film itself in Israel.
"Paradise Now" is having its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, which began last Thursday and runs through Sunday.
Katriel Schory, head of the Israeli Film Funds, committed his state-backed organisation to underwrite the distribution of "Paradise Now" at a seminar examining the film's contorted funding that was held as part of Berlin's annual Co-Production Meetings, said a report in Screen International Monday.
"The fund will provide print and advertising support when it finds a distributor in Israel," Schory was quoted as having said.
The film is a Dutch-German-French co-production with Amir Harel of Lama Films as Palestinian co-producer. Harel reportedly pointed out to Schory the difficulty in finding a distributor in Israel.
Schory, addressing an audience of more than 100 European producers and directors, said, "Then we will provide the support for you."
"Paradise Now" was directed by Hany Abu-Assad, a Nazareth-born aircraft engineer who is now making films in Amsterdam.
His previous film, "Rama's Wedding", was a drama about a young Palestinian woman who wants to marry the man of her choice, not of her father's choosing.
With "Paradise Now", the original screenplay was written in 2000, prior to the September 11 attacks and before the second "intifada" got underway.
But by the time the film was ready for funding, circumstances had changed.
The producers approached the Israeli Film Fund in 2002 seeking funding for production. Schory backed the proposal at the time, but the fund's board turned it down.
"You have to remember that this was two-and-a-half years ago," Schory said.
Subject: German news