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Oscar Nomination for Palestinian Film Paradise Now Opposed By Israeli Victim’s Father

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Yossi Zur, whose 16-year-son Asaf was killed by a suicide bomber, was outraged to find out that the Palestinian movie “Paradise Now” was nominated for an Academy Award. The film, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the year, follows the path of two young Palestinians from their decision to become suicide bombers to the moment one of them boards a crowded Tel Aviv bus. He has started an appeal to revoke the nomination, which has garnered 24,000 signatures thus far.

He asks, “What exactly makes ‘Paradise Now’ worthy of such a prestigious nomination? At a time when Hamas, a terrorist organization devoted to the destruction of Israel, has won a landslide victory in the Palestinian legislative elections, and Iran’s president has stated his desire to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ what sort of message would an Academy Award triumph send to more than 1 billion viewers around the world?”

I can feel the father’s pain. (see my conclusions on a previous essay of mine about torture here .

That question is something which really bothers me, because it gives me a glimpse into the inner barbarian and animal that resides inside of me. If I was the father of the kidnapped child, I can even see myself as the torturer. One of the reasons why I empathized with Mel Gibson’s film Ransom, in which he refuses to pay the ransom for his kidnapped child and uses the ransom money to put in a bounty on the kidnapper’s head.

When Mel Gibson finally kills the kidnapper in the movie, I punched the air and yelled, “YES!” That’s a primal reaction and I have to regretfully inform you that I wouldn’t have sat back and waited. I would have been out hunting as well.

But that is personal; civilization means that we have to overlook the personal pain and stop vigilante justice. Let the state take care of revenge and retribution. That said, terrorism is a tough one definitely. This film talks about the Palestinian suicide bombing.

I know about this film, have read about the maker and I know about the feelings of the suicide bombers. But herein lies the issue. Who and how do we balance the rights of the victim? Who is really the victim? The suicide bomber can be said to be the victim of Israeli aggression, while the son was the victim of the suicide bomber and the father turns out to be the victim of the film which glorifies the son’s killers.

Difficult question. The UK recently passed a law that makes glorification of terrorism a punishable offence. If this film was made/shown in the UK, the director could be chucked into jail.

We have had many a case in which it was clear that young men and women were swayed to committing illegal and terrorist acts based upon watching films. We have seen that evidence across a vast swathe of the world, not only in India and the UK.

Is that wrong? Depends on where you are coming from, but at end of the day, if you are in the UK, you are wrong. Period. That’s what democracies say and do. Compare this with sexual imagery. Who draws the line? Under 18 sexual images is pedophilia but there are states where you can marry at 14. In the UK, you cannot show erect male genitalia but everything else goes.

In Saudi Arabia, you may get your head chopped off and in India, you will get locked up even if you show intercourse.

Life imitates art which imitates life. In my opinion, this film crosses the line and as the example shows, a balanced view is what is required. Mind you, Munich was an attempt to show the flip side, and look at how that film was treated.

The petition, which contains more than 24,000 signatures, can be found at here.

This article originally appeared at Desicritics.org, a Blogcritics.org network site, providing news and information on media, culture, politics, sports, etc. with a South Asian focus. Visit Desicritics.org for more fine stuff.

Posted on Desicritics by Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta.

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  • Bliffle

    Nothing justifies the suicide killers, especially their own spiriual drunkeness. Anyone can contrive such an excuse for killing anyone else.

    Mel Gibson copied the idea for “Ransom” from a live TV “Playhouse 90″ in the 50s called “Man On A Tightrope” that featured Ralph Bellamy in an excellent and subtle performance (no doubt better than Gibsons usual hysteria). Perhaps Rod Serling wrote the original.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    The murder of the Israeli Olympic Team in 1972 had no justification – period. That the perpetrators were hunted down and eliminated from humanity like the cockroaches they were was perfectly justified.

    If I were Yossi Tzur, I’d be equally enraged by the Spielberg film.

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    I have seen Paradise Now — and the very idea that it glorifies terrorrism is absurd. No one can fail to empathize with the grief of Yossi Zur, but his viewpoint is not reasonable and I doubt the people who have so eagerly signed his petition have seen the film. The campaign you describe smacks of sheer demagoguery.

    The film tells the story of two young Palestinian young men who are raised in a culture that tells them a suicide mission is noble and honorable. When we first meet these two, Said and Khalel, they are a pair of wastrels: friends from childhood who work together at a body shop, where they lift the occasional goods from the cars of customers, and do only what they must to get by.

    The news that they are chosen for a mission focuses them, especially Khaled, the more extroverted of the two, who has all the heedless zeal of a true patriot. They promptly make farewell videos for their families, change their appearance by cutting their hair and beards, and prepare to meet the two angels whom, they are assured, will escort them to the next world.

    What should be an easy mission — as easy as these things can be — becomes suddenly interrupted; real life complications ensue, and the delay allows both rational thought and outside counsel to get in the way. The young men are parted, then rejoined; mixed emotions about fulfilling their assigned role are transferred from one to the other and back again. The hot-blooded Khaled and the self-effacing, gentle Said, reverse their positions — Khaled starts thinking that maybe it’s better to stay alive and work for a peaceful solution, while Said is weighed down by the memory of a father who was executed for collaborating with Israel. Could his own martyrdom redeem the family honor?

    Of the two, filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad is clearly on the side of Khalel. At the same time, we cannot help but understand Said’s own burden of family history.

    Abu-Assad does not celebrate terrorism so much as he shows it to us with a certain distance, a certain objectivity — he’s doing what all good filmmakers do, and that is to open a window on a way of life and a way of thinking that seems to us foreign, strange, bizarre. He’s trying to make us understand, to help us see why people think the way they do, why two young men can immediately latch on to the idea of killing themselves along with dozens of other innocent victims. Personally, I think he could have gone further in that regard, but he clearly does not glorify suicide bombing or terrorism in any way; the story does the opposite.

    We don’t need fewer films like this. We need more.

  • http://desicritics.org Aaman

    If we still had the Comment of The Day/Week – #3 would be a shoo-in:)

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Thanks, Aaman — I checked out the responses at Desicritics and was pleased to see I am not alone.

  • Deena

    With all due respect Sir, if you have watched the film you would have seen that it does NOT glorify terrorism, it only puts it in perspective. We can not allow prejudices to blind us from seeing things that we do not like or wish to know just because it makes us feel better.
    I believe the heated reaction is simply a result of people not used to seeing the Palestinian point of view. If we want to stop suicide bombings, and solve the Mid East crisis once and for all, then such attempts to present both sides of the story are a must. My recommendation to you? WATCH THE FILM, then blog.

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