Judge Dylan Charles takes on a good documentary about an unpleasant subject.
Paradise is Hell.
It is hard for an outsider to truly grasp the conflicts in the Middle East. Even more incomprehensible to the average American is the idea of the suicide bomber. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Director Pierre Rehov (Hostages of Hatred) made a series of films to fight increasing anti-Semitism in the Middle East. Each film examined an aspect of the conflict in that region. Suicide Killers tackled suicide bombers. Rehov interviews victims, soldiers, psychologists, sociologists, activists and finally, the bombers themselves in an attempt to find out why so many have given up their lives so willingly.
Rehov doesn't restrict himself to the experts. His interviews cover a broad spectrum, which is Suicide Killers's strong point. Yes, there is the occasional zealot, bound and determined to wipe Israel off the map. But then there's Sami Nazdrawa, a young Arab man living in Israel, nearly killed in two terrorist attacks himself. He tells about growing up and hearing that if he moves into predominantly Jewish cities, he will be killed. And still he moved there. There is the family of a man who killed himself in a suicide attack—and they cannot understand why he would do that, why he would end his life and leave his family broken.
Rehov talks to bombers who failed in their mission and ended up in prison. The men he talks to speak of giving their life for a greater glory than they could ever find on earth. Perhaps the most interesting of these interviews is with four women, attempted bombers themselves. One believes she will become one of those 72 virgins in paradise.
Rehov shows the shades of grey and refuses to simplify matters. He talks to Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist, about the possible psychological motivations. Sarraj talks of a loss of dignity, a loss of pride, that many bombers believe can only be regained through this one final act. Rehov talks to students at a Muslim university, men who are the same age as many of the suicide bombers, who give their own perspective of what it's like to live in this society. Rehov paints a picture of the average Muslim man and woman being caught in the middle of two extremes. On the one hand is the Israeli government and, on the other hand, Muslim leaders looking for weapons against the Israelis.
Rehov ends the film on an ambiguous note. Two captured bombers look straight into the camera. One bomber saw a small child before he was about to detonate himself and then gave up his mission for good. The other bomber promises that if he ever gets out of prison, he will try again and again to give his life in the name of his cause.
The deleted scenes vary widely in quality. Some of the clips add a great deal to the overall picture already provided in the film itself, such as the interview with the checkpoint soldiers and snippets of interviews with various Islamic leaders on Arab television. But everything else was deservedly cut. There's also an interview between Rehov and Sean Hannity; if you can ignore Hannity then Rehov is worth listening to, even if only for this brief amount of time.
Then there's the "study guide" that you can access from your computer. It's less a study guide and more a lesson plan, a pdf file that contains reams of data and websites on terrorism, interviews with the director and website links that'll give you even more information.
Suicide Killers is, of course, not the final word on this issue. But it can help the average outsider, the ones who cannot fathom why suicide bombers even exist, to understand, if only a little bit, the culture that creates such soldiers.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: City Lights Pictures
• Exclusive Interviews with Survivors and Jailed Bombers
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