Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Writer: Hany Abu-Assad
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Palestinian entry to the Academy, “Omar” tells a compelling story about a young Palestinian man who gets caught up in a resistance movement led by his childhood friend, Tarek. In love with Tarek’s sister, Nadia, he goes on a mission which ends with the death of an Israeli soldier. After being captured by Israeli forces and interrogated, he is given a choice: Help them find the man responsible for the soldier’s death (who they believe is Tarek), or they will put him away forever. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse as the audience is left to question whether Omar will really betray his friends, or if he is simply playing the Israeli forces.
This movie is excellent in its minimalism. Beginning with an impressive shot of the security wall as Omar climbs it to get to his job at a bakery, the first thing we notice is the sound. The audience is left to listen to every sound on screen, from grunts, gunshots, and the like. There is no music in this film. Backgrounds are instead punctuated by the din of surrounding conversations, or the sound of construction. And yet we don’t really miss the music. The background sound becomes part of the character of this movie.
It tells an impressive story that has genuine twists and turns, and while there are clues as to the film’s conclusion, we don’t know what’s ultimately going to happen in that last frame. However, it does fall apart a bit near the end, as the ending starts to become blindingly obvious the closer we get.
While the movie is controversial and some have labeled the movie as jihadist propoganda simply because it’s a Palestinian film, that label is unfair. The setting happens to be in the West Bank, but this film’s story could be easily translated to nearly anywhere in the world. The fact that it involves Palestinians and Israelis almost feel like a circumstance, and we aren’t beaten over the head with it or any political ideology despite it being a fundamental part of the story. The main story comes in Omar’s internal conflict, primarily with his love for Nadia and what his actions could mean for her, and we root for him to get the girl and run away from all this conflict, which clearly becomes his goal.
“Omar” tells a beautiful if conflicted love story set in the context of a modern conflict. While some may be turned off by it’s background subject, if you have an open mind and patience with opposing viewpoints, you’ll find an excellent and touching film albeit with an obvious ending that doesn’t provide much of a surprise by the time you get there.
“Omar” earns 4 out of 5 stars.