In an earlier post, I published excerpts of a critical review of the film “Paradise Now” from the daily newspaper WELT and lent my support to the critique. I have to admit that I hadn’t seen the film myself at that time.
I’ve now corrected this. It was a terrible experience.
“Paradise Now” is the first openly anti-Semitic film I’ve seen in the German cinema. Joseph Goebbels would have been proud of the numerous Germans who collaborated in its production (the film is distributed by Constantin Film/Munich). He would have praised in glowing terms the fact that the German taxpayer ponied up an essential contribution to the production costs. The materials for discussion of the film in German schools authored by a federal authority from the Central Office for Political Education (BPB) would have met with his grinning approval.
Our first posting dealt with the plot. In summary, young Palestinian men gratefully accept a command from a Palestinian terror group (my interpretation, not the film’s) to assassinate Israelis in Tel Aviv. After a few false starts one of the men carries out the assassination – a suicide attack in a bus.
The film’s action, especially the dialogs and discussions between the main characters, portrays the conflict between two positions. First position:
The Israelis are criminal occupiers who oppress the Palestinians. They must be combated with assassination and force.
The Israelis are criminal occupiers who oppress the Palestinians. They must be combated with peace activists’ non-violent demonstrations.
The film leaves open which of the two positions is the right one. The only thing certain in the film is the guilt and malice of the Israelis, the “occupiers”. It’s not worth going into detail about the film’s striking polemics against the Israelis. No attempt is undertaken anywhere in the film to explain the Israelis’ position. Almost all of the Israelis appear in the film as soldiers - intimidating, menacing, anonymous, occasionally with sadistic impulses.
While the Palestinians, without exception in the German version, speak at length in flawless German, there’s only one place in the whole film where an Israeli speaks a sentence - German, but with an unpleasant accent.
Of all things, this one Israeli with at least a minimal script presence had to inveigh against his fellow citizens’ wealth – a character quirk from the Nazis’ anti-Semitic films with which older Germans will be quite familiar.
Instructing a Palestinian suicide bomber how to
kill Jews. Scene from a film co-financed by German authorities.
The film expresses no moral criticism of the Palestinian suicide attackers’ practice of murdering Israeli civilians. The only thing under dispute is whether suicide attacks actually weaken the “occupiers”. In one of the film’s most ridiculously revisionist scenes, the main character shrinks from the bomb attack
at the last moment, because there’s a little kid on the bus – as though the history of Palestinian suicide attacks weren’t synonymous with a history of murdering countless innocent women, children and other civilians. At the film’s conclusion, the screenplay replaces the suicide attack with one on a bus full of Israeli soldiers. The suicide enjoys the mitigating aura of a quasi-military action.
The material from the Central Office for Political Education accompanying this film is a scandal all it’s own. The Central Office for Political Education is a federally directed and financed institution. Matthias Küntzel writes in the Transatlantic Intelligencer regarding this material:
"With this brochure, (this) public agency is acting as a Central Office for Middle East Disinformation and Terror Acceptance. While one could give the movie itself the innocuous label of an “artwork”, the brochure falls into another category: that of a state-sponsored political and educational initiative. These materials do not call into question empathy with anti-Jewish mass-murderers, but rather expect it. Here the history of the Middle East conflict is not set straight, but rather distorted in such a way as to encourage an uncritical reception of “Paradise Now”. The brochure is politically and morally unacceptable. (…)
Instead of encouraging students to maintain a critical distance from “Paradise Now”, the BPB reproduces the movie’s anti-Zionist fury in its own “worksheet” for instructional use. In the presentation for the students, the policy of dialog and negotiation with Israel is not even mentioned as an option. Instead, Assignment 1 offers the following three statements for discussion: “Whoever fears death is already dead”, “No freedom without struggle”, and “Resistance can take many different forms”. Students are supposed to work in small groups to gather arguments that "either support or refute" these statements and to illustrate their arguments with examples. Resistance against Israel, struggle against Israel, killing yourself against Israel – just as in the movie, no other form of conflict resolution makes an appearance in this lesson plan. (…)
A critical guide to the film would not only have deciphered the anti-Semitic code words. It would also have had to draw attention to Palestinian anti-Semitism, such as comes to light in its most radical form in the Hamas Charter and the Hizbollah TV channel Al-Manar. But the concept of anti-Semitism does not appear anywhere in the entire brochure. Even Hizbollah is presented innocuously as an “organization with an anti-Zionist orientation.” (…)
Just as in the film, also in its brochure, the few critical objections that one can find against suicide attacks are tactically motivated and subordinated to the broad anti-Israeli lines of the presentation.“
For the sensitive souls of the German left, the distributor placed a quote from Bill Clinton on the film poster! But his unequivocal condemnation of terror finds no echo in the film.
One of the many scandals surrounding the film is the financial support that “Paradise Now” received from the “Nordrhein-Westfalen Film Fund” (Filmförderung Nordrhein-Westfalen). One of its members – along with public and private TV institutions – is the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, represented by the newly elected (conservative) minister president Jürgen Rüttgers. Maybe you’d like to send him an e-mail with your opinion of “Paradise Now”.
If there’s any positive experience from my viewing of the film “Paradise Now”, it’s this: The theater was only about 5% full. I presume the distributor will quickly pull the film from German theaters on financial grounds. I also certainly assume that we’ll meet the film again on public TV all gussied up in a politically correct interpretation.
(I seriously recommend that you read the whole article of Matthias Küntzel, of which only excerpts are presented here, in the Transatlantic Intelligencer. Also worth reading, albeit in German, is the report from a public discussion with the film’s co-producers).
(Translation by Richard Bartholomew)