BERLIN – A filmmaker presented what he described as the first feature film about Palestinian suicide bombers, a movie that explores their motivations but stops short of making judgments.
The Dutch-based Arab director is a native of Nazareth, Israel, and the film's backers hope it will be shown in both the Palestinian territories and in Israel.
The movie follows two friends and would-be bombers, Said and Khaled, as they prepare for an attack in Tel Aviv and spend what's supposed to be their last night with families and friends. When they are separated at Israel's border fence, the confusion leaves both men wondering whether their mission makes sense.
"It hasn't anything to do with taking a pro side or an anti side or whatever," Bero Beyer, the film's co-producer, told reporters. "We tried simply to make a story which deflates the myth of both extremes and brings it down to a human factor."
Khaled (played by Ali Suliman) is convinced that his mission is futile after a conversation with a Palestinian woman who has lived abroad and whose father was killed by Israeli forces.
The conversation reflects "the two different thoughts in the Palestinian street about this phenomenon -- the one saying we cannot do this because we become the oppressor ... and the other saying we have no other choice," Abu-Assad said, adding that he hoped the film would contribute toward that discussion.
Said (Kais Nashef) is motivated by the fate of his father, who was killed for collaborating with Israel.
In the film's closing sequence, Said is seen preparing to blow himself up amid soldiers on a Tel Aviv bus -- raising, but not answering, the question of whether any targets are legitimate.
Abu-Assad said he would try to set up screenings in the Palestinian areas. The film's Israeli co-producer, Amir Harel, said he hoped to get it distributed in Israel.
"I am very happy to show this film to everyone, and to the Israelis for sure," the director said.
Israeli society "has an ignorant attitude toward the Palestinians -- for them, they are invisible or they are terrorists," he said.
"Paradise Now" is one of 21 films competing for the Berlin festival's top honors, the Golden Bear, which will be awarded Saturday.