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Hani Abu-Assad with award
Photo: Reuters

Palestinian film evokes excitement, anger

Golden Globes made me feel proud; of course, I’m Palestinian

Anytime anything Palestinian makes it to the celebrity spotlight, you know some people are going to get upset.

 

That’s exactly what happened when“Paradise Now,” a film in Arabic about two would-be Palestinian suicide bombers, won the prestigious Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film this week.

 

The film competed against films from China, France and South Africa during the 63rd Annual Golden Global Awards which was broadcast live to Americans.

 

It’s not like a Golden Globe award is the equivalent of an Oscar award. They are not. A Golden Globe gets you recognition. An academy award can force the majority of American movie-goers who didn’t see it, to take serious notice and go see the film at the theaters or rush to buy and rent the DVD.

 

Besides being Palestinian, “Paradise Now” has other disadvantages. Although it’s received some media buzz and attention, it hasn’t grabbed the attention of American audiences. And, it’s also in Arabic, or non-English, which I guess is a criterion of most Foreign Language Films.

 

The fact that it won and beat out other Foreign Films means it is going to be the subject of much discussion, although still not enough to make it a must-see film for most Americans.

 

The film was directed by Palestinian Hani Abu-Assad. He’s currently already into shooting another film called “L.A. Cairo,” in English. Most of his other films are unknown to American audiences, but well known to most Palestinians and Israelis.

 

And of course, Palestinians and Israelis don’t get along, despite all the talk about “peace.”

 

Forget about the fact that few seem able to spell his last name correctly. The film has fallen into the category of “political controversy.” And some Israelis are upset.

 

Their main complaint is that he film was identified as being from “Palestine.” Imagine, saying the word “Palestine” and labeling it as a “country” on national TV. To most Israelis in the Arab-Israeli conflict, that is the ultimate sin.

 

The other reason is that in accepting his award, Abu-Assad thanked Warner Independent Pictures for “having the courage to distribute the film in America” and told the Hollywood-elite packed theater where the ceremony was held that the film demonstrated that “the Palestine people deserve their freedom and liberation unconditionally.”

 

Abu-Assad’s comments were far briefer than the typically longwinded acceptance speeches of other better known directors and filmmaker, but that only goes to show you how little it takes to spark a fierce Arab-Israel debate.

 

Yosi Tzur, whose son was killed in a suicide bombing, criticized the film for glorifying “suicide bombers.” It made them look “human,” he said.

 

My colleague at YnetNews.com, the web site of the prestigious Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, wrote that Palestine does not exist, except in the minds of Hollywood, which is much like the old Arabs who used to assert that “Israel” does not exist, referring to it as “the Zionist entity.”

 

‘A small bunch of Zionist hoodlums’

 

I watched the Golden Globes and it made me feel proud. Of course, I am Palestinian.

 

I remembered watching the Oscars in 1978, when Vanessa Redgrave won the Academy Award for her performance in the film “Julia,” about a woman murdered by the Nazis. But the year before, Redgrave had funded and narrated another documentary “The Palestinians” that detailed the plight of the Palestinians - there is that word people don’t want you to hear. Her Oscar appearance was protested by members of the Jewish Defense League, which is today denounced as a Jewish terrorist organization.

 

In accepting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress playing Julia, the Holocaust victim, Redgrave addressed the JDL thugs who were outside of the ceremony. She denounced all forms of totalitarianism and declared defiantly she would not be intimidated by “a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature to Jews all over the world.”

 

Actually, there were only about 20 members of the JDL outside of the ceremonies but more than 200 Palestinians carrying placards who cheered her on.

 

While Abu-Assad’s comments were greeted with disinterested applause, Redgrave’s comments nearly 30 years before drew jeers and catcalls from the audience, and a reprimand from pro-Israeli activist and filmmaker Paddy Chayefsky, who said, “I am sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda.”

 

Too busy calling each other names

 

Like the Oscars haven’t been exploited for political causes by numerous others that Chayefsky failed to mention.

 

Still, I was proud of Redgrave. It’s not easy to stand up to the more vocal, active and influential pro-Israel activists in the United States, especially back in 1978 when it was illegal for a Palestinian in Israel or under occupation to wave a Palestinian flag.

 

Palestine is a country and Palestinians do exist. Only the most racist and bigoted Israelis and their supporters deny either.

 

Fortunately, they are the growing minority. More and more Israelis are learning to accept the reality of Palestinians and the inevitability of a Palestinian State.

 

Hany Abu-Assad is not a Palestinian diplomat, but he is a hero to me.

 

Most Americans will probably shrug their shoulders if they even become aware of the debate. The fact is what matters to Arabs and Israelis doesn’t really matter to most Americans, the majority of whom still wonder why the two warring nations can’t seem to get along or sign a peace accord.

 

But the Golden Globe event itself may provide the real answer to that question.

 

Neither side can reach peace because too many Palestinians and Israelis are too busy calling each other names.

 

Award winning journalist, author and standup comedian, Ray Hanania writes exclusively on serious and humorous topics for YnetNews.com. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.

 


פרסום ראשון: 01.19.06, 08:19
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