Thursday, October 8, 2009

Acts of Faith in Paradise Now

Newman and Falah's scholarly article outlining the Palestinian-Israeli conflict informs intellectually the emotionally charged film Paradise Now. The explication of terms including top-down v. bottom-up organization, autonomy v. self-determination, and nation-state v. nation is vital to our conversation on this topic since we want to be as precise and sophisticated as possible. In this article, we are given the conceptual underpinning for the sentiments expressed in the film, particularly those demonstrated by Said. Near the end of the film, he says that he feels trapped as a Palestinian who is hardly ever authorized to leave the West Bank. In addition, he must contend with the legacy of his father who was executed as a collaborator. In essence, he feels that he must pay penance for his father's betrayal of the Palestinian nation. This burden weighs heavy and oppressive on him, emphaizing the extent of his entrapment. Furthermore, he feels rendered powerless in his position as victim, emphasizing that Israel, as the "occupier" defies victimization. This prospect runs deep among the men comprising the resistence. Says Jamal, "Death is better than inferiority." He puts faith in the power of the individual to enact change.

Due to its topic, suicide bombing, this film raises the question; is the ultimate sacrifice possible without faith in a higher power? To be sure, I am not speaking about Islam in particular here, for there are fundamentalists in all religions. Both Said and Khaled feel that they are pleasing their god through their actions. Jamal continually reminds them of the glory awaiting them in heaven, in addition to the status as heroes that they will assume posthumously. Is the concept of a reward beyond this life the driving force behind this sort of sacrifice? Despite their devout faith, when the time comes for Khaled and Said to carry out their mission, they begin to ask a series of unanswerable questions directed at no one in particular. Are you sure God will be pleased? Are you sure the angels will take us away immediately? Are you sure we will be remembered? The sense of desperation that pevades this moment in the film is overwhleming. It is at once disturbing and deeply moving that there are people in this world willing to die for a given cause. What's more, the notion of religious fervor passionate enough to incite the ultimate sacrifice is both beautiful and incredibly frightening.


  1. When Said and Khaled are asking the questions about acceptance, being remembered -all geared towards God- it makes you think that no one knows what is going to happen or how. It does give you a very weary feeling of desperation!

  2. I agree that it is hard to understand what goes through someone's mind when they are thinking about suicide bombing, and it is even more difficult to think that someone would do something so drastic for their faith. For me it is hard to look at my own faith and not be thankful that I can show my faith in other ways that the killing of others. To an extent I can see where is someone was brought up to think this and in that culture and faith that it may not seem like such a terrible thing, but as a human being you would think that this would keep them from killing others.

  3. I think the whole concept of religion, as you brought up, and faith is insanely interesting. Different groups of people have different gods and different sets of codes by which they live. And yet, we see people in EVERY religion questioning their faith and the bigger picture, whether it's regarding a suicide bombing or just a simple life decision. We all (or many, anyway) put so much power into something we cannot know for sure, which sometimes even results in the death of others and ourselves.