Paradise Now

Institute History


Two young car mechanics in Gaza, the smart and careful Saïd and the physically strong but lazy Khaled, seem to be spending their time daydreaming of cars and women. In fact, they have an appointment with death.

One day they are ordered to execute a suicide mission for the political/religious organization to which they secretly belong. They have 24 hours to prepare for their “journey to heaven,” but must not tell anyone of their plans. After seeing their families, Saïd and Khaled are sent to Tel Aviv with bombs strapped to their bodies. En route, however, things go awry and the two men are forced to separate.

Saïd, unable to deactivate or remove the bomb himself, wanders through Gaza in search of the organization and Khaled. Meanwhile, Khaled, relieved of his bomb by his superiors, tries to find Saïd to go on with the mission. As the two friends search desperately for each other, their relationship gradually becomes clearer to us. Years ago Saïd's father was executed by the resistance for being a collaborator. While everybody treated Saïd's family as outcasts, Khaled remained loyal to his friend. Their different personalities meant there was both admiration and jealousy between them. Each always wanting to outdo the other, they kept pushing each other to extremes. This dynamic, combined with the lack of a future in a society that both glorifies martyrdom and despises collaboration to the extreme, brings them to their insane deed of heroism. Selected by the age of nine, they were bit by bit filled by the glory of martyrdom as a way to not only oppose the violence and oppression of the hated enemy but also to escape the misery of life in Gaza.

During their exhausting quest, the men find themselves in emotional turmoil. Worried at first, Saïd slowly starts to appreciate life, but the mounting tension of his desperate situation finally turns his fear into determination. He wants to clear his family's name, now more than ever. Meanwhile, Khaled's initial goal of finding Saïd in order to allow their mission to go on gradually becomes an effort to save his friend from a useless death. The same reasons that once convinced him to join the organization now convince him to go on and pursue what once seemed to be an unattainable future. When the two men finally reunite, Saïd's determination finally forces Khaled to make a choice between his friend and his life.

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