Thursday, February 06, 2014

“Omar” – Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw the Palestinian thriller “Omar”, which has been nominated for Best Foreign Film in this year’s Academy Awards.


When a young Palestinian man is accused of killing an Israeli soldier, he tries to clear his name – but will doing so require him to betray his friends and lover?


Omar, a bakery worker from The West Bank, looks forward to his regular visits with childhood friends Tarek and Amjad. Whenever they get together, they practice paramilitary routines as they aspire to be freedom fighters who oppose what they view as the Israeli occupation of their rightful land. Tarek, the ostensible leader of their troika, plans to attack an Israeli army base so they can shoot one of the soldiers.  Secretly, Omar and Nadia, Tarek’s younger sister, are madly in love with each other. Together, the two conduct their romantic relationship chastely, in a chiefly epistolary manner.

On the night of their mission, Tarek informs Amjad that he must shoot the soldier. Despite his initial protests, Amjad eventually relents and pulls the trigger on the rifle, killing the Israeli guard. Amidst a barrage of return fire from the remaining soldiers in the base, the three young men escape – for now. Subsequently, Omar is arrested and through deceptive techniques by Agent Rami, an Israeli police officer, Omar inadvertently admits to having knowledge about the crime. Rami then coerces Omar into spying for him; Omar is then released so that he can attempt to clear himself of the murder.

Upon returning to his village, Omar is looked upon with great suspicion by his friends and neighbors alike. Loyal to him, however, is Nadia, who believes he is innocent, but still wants to know the truth. Following another arrest when he is part of an attempted ambush on other Israelis, Omar is now confronted with the reality that he must either face a life-long prison term or do the bidding of Agent Rami in order to remain a free man. But when Omar begins to suspect that his friends may have betrayed him in various ways, will he remain loyal to them or will he turn into a traitor in order to save himself?


As a thriller, “Omar” attempts to focus more on the lead’s friendships and romance. However, it seems virtually impossible for any Palestinian movie to be completely absent of any political aspects, especially when Israel is involved. Given the tempestuous and acrimonious relationship the two have had for so long, it would admittedly be hard to imagine otherwise. That said, I don’t think that it would be either fair or accurate to say this film is clean of any political axe-grinding any more than it would be fair or accurate to say that it is some kind of political thriller. In point of fact, I suppose it is probably somewhere in between.

When watching “Omar”, I tried to look for what made this worthy of an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Foreign Film. While I had some trouble with the way the story was laid out – both in terms of the script and visual techniques – I can certainly see what aspects there were to appreciate. Yet I can’t help but wonder if the nomination was done simply for political purposes – to encourage Palestinian filmmaking as a way of expressing disagreements in favor of blowing up innocent people. If that was the case, good luck. Strengths of the movie include the way the action scenes were shot and the suspenseful twists and turns of double and triple-crosses.

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed “Omar”’s director Hany Abu-Assad and one of its stars, Waleed Zuaiter, who played Agent Rami. The movie was shot over a period of about a month and a half for a budget of approximately $1.5 million. Abu-Assad sent the script to Zuaiter after previously seeing him in various other motion pictures and stage plays; he asked Zuaiter to read the script and consider playing the role of Agent Rami. Zuaiter wound up not only agreeing to play the part of Rami, but also offered to assist Abu-Assad in raising money to fund the picture. For many of the crew working on the film, this was their first experience as a primary participant; their previous jobs had been assisting on other projects.

Omar (2013) on IMDb 7.8/10970 votes


No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!