Well made but disturbing.
Omar is an Oscar-nominated film that was made in Israel and Palestinian territory by a filmmaker (Hany Abu-Assad) and actors who are apparently Israeli citizens but are ethnic Palestinians. It was mostly funded by folks in Palestinian territory. Not surprisingly, it takes a decidedly one-sided point of view. However, the way the film worked out saddened me and I wondered how the film was received in the West Bank and Gaza. The ending certainly couldn't have invoked standing ovations but the message of love is a thing that has no politics and no borders. This Shakespearean-like film gives a mixed message but one can hope the tale of two lovers from either side of a terrible conflict, is the message that's heard loudest of all.
The film is about Omar (played well by Adam Bakri) who, along with a couple friends, shoot a soldier. Oddly, the authorities seem to know almost instantly that Omar was involved and they arrest and torture him until he agrees to work for them covertly. However, once he’s released, Omar doesn't do exactly what he agreed to do and begins work on additional terrorist activities. Soon, he’s arrested again and this time he begs to have a second chance to work for Israeli intelligence. The reason seems to be because Omar is in love with a girl and is even willing to consider helping the Israelis in order to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison. What exactly happens next, you'll just need to see for yourself.
Technically speaking, Omar is a very good film. Its plot is engaging, the acting and direction are very nice. It is a movie, however, that is bound to ruffle a lot of feathers, in particular the disturbing and unsatisfactory way it ends. It also tended to direct the viewer more against the use of torture and the work of the secret police as opposed to the terrorists who killed someone and planned on killing more. In fact, with a different ending, I feel it would have greatly improved the film. Filmed with the beautiful backdrop of Palestine’s Nablus and Israel’s Nazareth, cinematographer Ehab Assal helped bring Abu-Assad’s vision to life, as we see Omar paint himself into a corner, leaving himself with no way out. Perhaps this is representative of the conflict between the two countries.
Trying to remain neutral when a film has clear leanings is no easy task, and I do not consider myself to hold strong opinions, one way or the other, so if you were looking for a message of peace--as I would have preferred--Omar isn't the film for you.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer
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