It's been happening ever since "Paradise Now" was released in the United States -- a small, but avid group of Palestinian-haters condemning the movie's sympathetic portrayal of two men who agree to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel. Now that hatefulness is spilling over into the Academy Awards, as reported by David Carr, the New York Times's Oscar blogger.
In an entry titled "Paradise Never," Carr writes of an online petition -- first reported in The Jerusalem Post -- asking Academy voters to withdraw the film's nomination. Quoting from one individual Yossi Zur, the petition claims: "Would the people that awarded this movie the Golden Globe do the same if the movie was about young people from Saudi Arabia who learn how to fly airplanes in the USA and then use Islamic rituals to prepare themselves for their holy mission, crashing their airplanes into the Twin Towers in New York City? Would this movie get an award then?"
But it isn't. Duh. Have any of these complainers actually seen the movie? Spoiler-alert: They don't kill anybody! Sorry to ruin the movie for all those audience members who would like to imagine that these guys go out and wreak havoc on Israelis, blowing them up to little pieces, but it isn't in there. One of the men chickens out entirely. He's frightened, scared out of his wits to die. And this is offensive?
Back when the film was going to get released, Warner Independent Pictures's Laura Kim forwarded me all types of crazy hate mail, at my request, from people just infuriated that a movie sympathetic to desparate Arab men would ever be made, let alone released. Last October, I wrote this story for indieWIRE, Will Paradise Now Be the Biggest Arabic-Language Film Ever, and I am now happy to report that my prediction has come true in the U.S. Though eking out paltry pre-screen averages of just a couple hundred dollars, Warner Indie has kept the film in theaters for months and it's grossed $1.2 million (more than double "Divine Intervention," the last Arabic-language film to do moderate business here.) Good for them, and good for "Paradise Now."
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