The film which has drawn strong reviews and courted  controversy for its empathic portrayal of two would-be suicide bombers, faces stiff competition from China's Kung Fu Hustle and Master of the Crimson, France's Joyeux Noel and South Africa's Tsotsi.

Director Hany Abu Assad, who is currently presenting the film at the Dubai International Film Festival, told Aljazeera.net that he feels very happy and honoured.

"It took time to digest the news. It felt so unreal. I thought it was a joke as if I were on candid camera," he said over the phone.

Asked if he had been celebrating, he replied: "I can't celebrate when there are three million Palestinian people still living under siege."

Palestinian representative

The film was also chosen as the Palestinian representative for the Oscars, and has won many international awards to date, including the European Film Academy's Best Screenplay award and the Berlin Festival's Blue Angel award.
 
Professional associations in the US have also embraced the film. Earlier this week, it was announced that the film is a finalist for the Broadcast Film Critics Association award and has won the National Board of Review award, beating several other films.

The Globes, handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, will be presented on 16 January.