Just daysafter the Middle Eastern summit in Egypt, Israel has offered a cinematic olivebranch to a Palestinian filmmaker.

Paradise Now, a drama about the last 24 hours of twoPalestinian suicide bombers that was made by a Palestinian-born director on theWest Bank will receive distribution support from the Israeli Film Fund. Thepublic agency may even release the film itself in Israel

Paradise Now receives its world premiere today incompetition at the Berlinale.

Katriel Schory, head of the Israeli Film Fund,yesterday committed his state-backed organisation to underwrite thedistribution of Paradise Now at a seminar examining the film's contorted funding that was heldas part of Berlin's annual Co-Production Meetings.

Speaking from the audience, Schory said:"[the Fund] will provide print and advertising (p&a) support when itfinds a distributor in Israel." The film is structured as aNetherlands-Germany-France production with a Amir Harel of Lama Films asPalestinian co-producer.

Harel challenged Schory and said "It is going to bedifficult to find a distributor in Israel that will pick it up. We may have todo it ourselves." Schory persisted and, in front of an audience of over100 European producers and directors, said "then we will provide thep&a support to you."

Paradise Now was directed by Hany Abu Assad, a Nazareth-bornaircraft engineer turned film-director who is now based in Amsterdam and whoseprevious feature was Rana's Wedding,a drama about a Palestinian girl who wants to marry the man of herchoice.

The original draft of the script was written in 2000, beforethe 9/11 terror attack in New York and before the second "intifada"had got underway. But by the time the film was ready for funding circumstanceshad changed.

The producers had approached the fund for production fundingin 2002 and despite Schory championing the film on the basis of its script,written by Abu-Asad and Dutch producer Bero Beyer, the Fund's boardturned it down. "You have to remember this was two and a half yearsago," said Schory.

The political turmoil had other effects on the film. It hadoriginally been set in Gaza and obtained the necessary shooting permits. But ithad to be moved to the West Bank for logistical and safety reasons. "Wecould have shot in Gaza, but getting the exposed film stock to Israel forprocessing would have been impossible because everything leaving Gaza has to bex-rayed," said Beyer. "And strange as it sounds, it is easier tonegotiate with a tank [on the West Bank] than a helicopter," said Beyer.Even then, during the filming, the shooting had to be moved from Nablus toNazareth, causing continuity problems and budget over-runs.

Shooting in the area created further unusual circumstances."Most companies would not have insured us, but we had made a couple ofdocumentaries there before and was able to find one that would, AR," saidBeyer. Even then it was partial cover. "The people, the equipment and thefilm stock was insured, but the relocation was. Nobody will provide cover a filmagainst terrorism."

The film was originally conceived by Abu-Asad and Beyer asan ultra- low budget picture that was to have been originated on digital videoand financed by the German branch of European cultural broadcaster Arte. Thescript was shopped around at Rotterdam's CineMart co-production market in2001 and was subsequently taken to Sundance's Screenwriter's lab.

Beyersaid that once the decision had been taken to play up the scale of the dramaand characterisation, the budget rose from approximately $1m to $2m. That inturn necessitated further co-production partners and financiers.