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Charles Deemer

Oregon Literary Review

MFA, Playwriting, University of Oregon

Writing faculty, Portland State University (part-time)

Retired playwright and screenwriter.
Active novelist, librettist and teacher.

Email: cdeemer(at)yahoo(dot)com

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The Writing Life...
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After October 31, 2006,
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The Writing Life II

(Posts archived here are from 01/10/03 - 10/31/06)

Friday, January 20, 2006  
On the wire
As I've said here before, Paradise Now is one of my favorite films of the past year, and I was delighted when it won Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes. But not everyone appreciates it.

Palestinian suicide bomber film fizzles in Israel

By Dan Williams 58 minutes ago

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An internationally acclaimed film about the motivations of Palestinian suicide bombers is unlikely to be widely viewed in
Israel because major cinema chains have shunned it, distribution experts said on Friday.

"Paradise Now," which depicts two out-of-luck men from the occupied
West Bank recruited to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv, was named best foreign language film at this week's Golden Globes ceremony, making it a contender for an Academy Award.

One of the film's producers, Amir Harel, is Israeli, and part of its marketing was paid for by an Israeli government arts fund. But so far screenings of Paradise Now in the Jewish state have been limited to independent art-house cinemas.

Harel blamed fierce criticism of the film -- months before it was even completed -- by Israelis who have been bereaved by attacks during a 5-year-old Palestinian revolt.

"It seems the distributors have made a simple calculation, and decided they do not need the hassle of political demonstrations outside their cinemas," Harel said.

While Paradise Now is almost entirely in Arabic, this in itself should not have posed a problem at Israeli cinemas used to foreign fare.

Shirit Gal, a Tel Aviv publicist who works with Israel's eight major distributors, noted that the recent films "The Syrian Bride" and "Atash" did well at the local box office despite their Arabic dialogue.

"The subject matter of Paradise Now is what has led the distribution chains to make a cost-benefit analysis, and conclude that it will not bring profits," she said.

Palestinians have largely responded well to the film, although in their case the problem of distribution is logistical. They enjoy only one fully functioning cinema, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.


Despite having a generally liberal attitude to the arts, Israelis have often reacted adversely to works attempting to deal with their decades-old conflict with the Palestinians.

A Swedish art exhibit that used a pool of blood-like dye to commemorate a Palestinian bombing two years ago was knocked down by the Israeli ambassador in full view of a television camera.

More recently,
Steven Spielberg's "Munich," a dramatization of the Israeli hunt for masterminds of the deadly Palestinian attack on the 1972 Munich Olympics, has been accused of skewing history and criticizing Israel's current security policies.

Paradise Now shows Palestinians bemoaning the travails of life under Israeli occupation, yet its characters also debate whether this warrants resorting to violence.

One of the bombers is motivated not only by revenge, but also by a need to atone for a relative who once spied for Israel -- a comment on the pressures within contemporary Palestinian society.

To many Israelis, just exploring the issue sympathetically is insulting to the victims of suicide bombings.

"Those who would heap awards on such a film should, even if they are unconcerned by the sensibilities of Israelis, consider whether they would make the same choice if they -- their nation or their families -- were the victims," the conservative Jerusalem Post said in an editorial.

Adding to the controversy about Paradise Now is the fact that the Golden Globes cited "Palestine" as its provenance, though the state does not yet exist and the director, Hany Abu-Assad, is originally from the Israeli Arab town of Nazareth.

"Israelis tend to get very patriotic when it comes to politicized entertainment events like this," Gal said.

1/20/2006 10:31:00 AM | 2 comments

Father of Bombing Victim Deplores 'Paradise Now'
Which he has a right to do. However, this is no reason not to do such a film or for others to avoid it. One of the purposes of artistic storytelling is to ask hard questions, to go where most don't want to go. The film, in fact, does nothing to glorify suicide bombers. It does much toward trying to understand them. But this noble goal is not why the film works; it works because it is gripping and suspenseful (as personally I find Brokeback Mountain not to be).
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