Palestinian director Hani abu-Assad’s film, “Paradise Now”, has been picked as one of five finalists for the Golden Globe Award's Best Foreign Language Film prize. Other nominees include Kung Fu Hustle (China), Master of Crimson Armor (China), Merry Christmas (France) and Tsotsi (South Africa).
The film’s Israeli producer, Amir Harel, said he was pleased about the nomination, but said he was disappointed it wasn't better received in Israel.
"We didn’t know how the American audience would react to the film, and we are extremely pleased by the nomination. I would have hoped the Israeli audience would have received the movie like it was in the United States, but apparently Americans are more progressive."
Harel said only several thousand Israelis have seen the movie since its premier in November, but added he hoped the Golden Globe nomination would give local audiences a "shot in the arm" to go an see the film.
“Paradise Now” was not purchased by Israeli distributors and is distributed independently by the producer, solely within the confines of the Cinemateque chain. But Harel said low attendance would likely force him to take the movie off the big screen. But he added that he is at a loss to explain local indifference, in light of the film's success overseas.
"First and foremost," he said, "this is an excellent cinematic piece d’oeuvre, so it is difficult to explain why it was received so positively abroad and with absolute indifference at home – despite the superb reviews.
"This could possibly be related to a general sense of apathy, and because nothing is urgent to people here. This movie is our story, and that is why I believe it should be distributed on a mass scale - especially here. But it’s not happening. Perhaps this nomination will help.”
Focus on terror
When asked whether the film’s focus on terrorism might have caused the Israeli audience to distance itself, Harel replied, “terror attacks take place also in New-York, there Bush’s anti-terror campaign is widely distributed, and still the film has proven to have an audience. I remind you again, all the awards given to the movie, including this nomination, were for merits of excellence and artistic quality.”
Abu-Assad could not be reached for comment, since he is currently presenting “Paradise Now” at the international film festival in Dubai. The film tells the story of two young men recruited for a suicide mission in Israel. The film was chosen as the Palestinian representative for the American Oscars, and has won many international awards to date, including the European Film Academy’s Best Screenplay award and the Berlin Festival’s “Blue Angel” award.
Professional associations in the United States have also embraced the movie. Earlier this week, it was announced that the film is a finalist for the Broadcast Film Critics Association award and has won the National Board of Review award, beating several other films, including one by Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox, “Walk on Water.”