Second Oscar-nominated feature for writer/director Hany Abu-Assad in the Best Foreign Language Film category. (The first was Paradise Now from 2005).
“Omar” (Adam Bakri) is a young Palestinian at the edge of manhood with a choice: does he want to be a “Freedom Fighter” (which in this context means remaining “one of the guys”) or does he want to marry “Nadja” (Leem Lubany) and settle down?
Omar’s inner conflict about his future proves useful to “Rami,” an Israeli Secret Service–Shabak aka Shin Bet–officer (Waleed F. Zuaiter) who tricks Omar into becoming an informant… or does he?
Omar is an excellent drama of conflicting loyalties with a heart-breaking love story at its core. There are scenes of striking imagery and Abu-Assad uses the separation wall as a particularly potent symbol. In the beginning, when Omar is young and unencumbered, he scampers over it with ease. As he ages, his body–and his adult responsibilities–weigh him down. (Note that the Israelis have now added barbed wire, so even if someone does make it to the top, it is almost impossible to get over to the other side.)
The “police procedural” aspect of Omar has some big holes, however, so the political story is not quite as successful as the personal story. Since we only see the scenes of Rami interrogating Omar, it’s never quite clear which poisonous lies have been invented by Omar’s friend “Amjad” (Samer Bisharat) and which have been invented or maybe just embellished by Rami.
Watching Omar a second time, it seemed clear to me that for all the passionate rhetoric about “Resisting Occupation, the ultimate tragedy of Omar has more to do with ordinary emotions like jealousy and greed. Omar is an extremely handsome young man, whereas Amjad–who is also in love with Nadja–is a runt. To imply that Rami (or Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank) is somehow responsible for Amjad’s perfidy runs counter to everything we know about human nature regardless of the historical surround. (JLH: 4/5)
Omar is also recommended by Rich, but not quite so enthusiastically. Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku.
Note that Adam Bakri, making his feature film debut in Omar, is the son of Mohammad Bakri, a Palestinian actor/filmmaker who was born in northern Israel (near Akko) in 1953. Mohammad Bakri has had a long, prestigious, award-winning career, & he is now universally recognized as one of the world’s most prominent Palestinian/Israeli actors. On the basis of his performance in Omar, Adam–who looks a great deal like his father–has a great professional future ahead of him too.
Top Photo: Adam Bakri & Leem Lubany as star-crossed young lovers “Omar” & “Nadja.”
Bottom Photo: After he is implicated in the murder of an Israeli soldier, Omar agrees to wear an ankle tracker as one of the conditions of his release from an Israeli prison. “Rami” (Waleed F. Zuaiter), his runner, is on the left.
Photo Credits: Dianah Kamhawi