LOS ANGELES - Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad was perhaps the most surprised man at the Golden Globes on Monday as his portrayal of suicide bombers crossing into Israel, "Paradise Now," was named the year's best foreign language film.
Abu-Assad, who works out of Holland but is now looking for a house in Hollywood Hills, had expected to lose as he did earlier this month to martial arts comedy "Kung Fu Hustle" at the Broadcast Film Critics awards.
He said he just assumed that too many people had either not seen his film or simply assumed it was too controversial.
In his acceptance speech, Abu-Assad made a plea for a Palestinian state, saying he saw the Golden Globe as "a recognition that the Palestinians deserve their liberty and equality unconditionally."
Winning the Globe also gives "Paradise Now" a major boost in its fight for an Oscar on March 5. Its next hurdle is to become one of the five foreign films nominated for an Academy Award on January 31. No Palestinian film has ever been nominated.
"I am surprised that we won but I don't believe my film is controversial. It just shows something from a different side that we are all worried about," he told reporters backstage at the Globes.
Abu-Assad insisted that he had not taken sides in the film but had tried to explain why two seemingly simple garage mechanics would be willing to kill themselves and others. His film presents arguments on all sides of the issue.
"It is a work of cinema. Cinema shows you different points of view," he added.
To make the movie, Abu-Assad had to dodge a missile attack from Israel plus skirt landmines and threats from Palestinian extremists.
But the filming in the West Bank city of Nablus, where his location manager was briefly kidnapped as a warning by Palestinian factions afraid the film would be critical, was just one hurdle.
"Paradise Now" wants the viewer to understand the mind-set that produces such acts as suicide bombings - because, as Abu-Assad says, to understand is a first step forward.
One scene in his movie is set in a West Bank video store that might pass for one in the United States or Europe except that it sells tapes made by suicide bombers who explain their actions to inspire those that follow. The tapes seem to take on the role that baseball trading cards might have in the United States.
Abu-Assad says he believes that impotence fuels the bombings.
The filmmaker says, "The feeling of the impotence is so strong that they kill themselves and others to say, 'I am not impotent.' It is a very complex situation, but the overriding umbrella is the injustice situation."
He says his film doesn't impose a point of view but instead tries to show "something invisible and that has never been done before."