Abu-Assad and Paradise Now

Hany Abu-Assad, director of Paradise Now, responds to the Angry Arab's critique of his film:

I attempted to repaint the story no longer from the mythological point of view but from that of current reality. To kill yourself with your enemy is a Biblical story. The story of Samson already tells us that people prefer to kill themselves together with their enemies rather than accept humiliation. I believe the story of Samson never happened, but was written as a fable in order to tell us something about human beings and humiliation. Unfortunately, the same story is now happening on the same land, with different people. It’s no longer a fable, but a reality. If I wanted to repaint it, I had to take it beyond its subject. Instead of concluding that people choose to kill themselves with others rather than accept humiliation, which has already been done, I began with this point and then tried to open the discussion about morality and its relevance. To be or not to be. The Last Supper also happened 2,000 years ago in Palestine, not in Italy. Leonardo Da Vinci painted as if the light came from God. I tried to repaint it in a new medium in a place not far from where it happened, but with the light coming from a neon lamp.

We the Palestinians are a human phenomenon facing a gigantic colonizer, and we refuse to give up. What’s more, our colonizer doesn’t simply want to pillage our resources under the guise of “civilizing” us, it wants us off the land altogether. We are facing a project of ethnic cleansing. Our only weapons are persistence, knowledge, culture and art. The role of art in this case is to be so creative as to change our specific case into a universal one without losing authenticity or the differences of details. It must feel real without generalizing or stereotyping. Oppression necessitates a militarily strong, organized group, but art necessitates talented individuals whose conscience is not for sale. A superior book or a beautiful painting will persist throughout history as a metaphor for humanity in all times and all places. Let the Israelis put all their energy into the science of oppression, serving the interests of a civilization that not long ago made them into soap in order to protect the narrow idea of a Jewish state. Let the Palestinians instead put all of their energy into the science of the human....
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.