Paradise Now, a feature film about two Palestinian friends who have volunteered for a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv, is opening in Israel.
Despite its potentially controversial subject matter, the film has been broadly well received. It has been sold to 45 countries, won several awards and has been a hit on the international film festival circuit. It has also been accepted as the Palestinian entry for the foreign language category of the Oscars.
According to the director Hany Abu-Assad, the point behind the film is to help people understand the environment and motivations that make ordinary people carry out such extreme acts of violence.
The filming was carried out on location in Nablus, one of the centres of Palestinian resistance, in the summer of 2004.
The making of the film required a lot of daring. Filming was regularly interrupted by Israeli and Palestinian gun battles and Israeli incursions were part of the daily routine. The crew were exposed to Israeli missile attacks on one side and feuding Palestinian militant factions on the other. One faction, unhappy with the subject matter of the film, threatened to take the foreign crew members hostage.
Award-winning photojournalist Seamus Murphy was given the assignment of photographing the making of the film under these circumstances. This task also enabled him to document the lives of ordinary Palestinians that have been re-shaped by the Israeli occupation.
The photographs "blur the distinction between fact and fantasy and we are left unsure as to whether we are looking at a motion picture being made or witnessing real life and death on the streets of Nablus," says Murphy.
Eventually the production crew were forced to complete a few of the Nablus scenes in Nazareth.