Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
The drama, the story of three childhood friends and a young woman who are torn apart in their fight for freedom, is billed as the first fully-financed film to come out of the Palestinian cinema industry.
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★★★½ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at Oscars last year, Omar is a compelling tale of love, loyalty & betrayal that offers an insight into the existing tension between Israelis & Palestinians from the latter's perspective and with the help of its composed direction, honest performances, raw photography & an unexpectedly shocking finale, it manages to make itself heard in a quite brutal manner.
Omar tells the story of its titular character; a young Palestinian working as a baker who joins the freedom fight against the common enemy along with two of his childhood friends but is apprehended after the killing of an Israeli soldier at a military base. Tricked into confessing his association in the act & facing a lifetime sentence, his only way out is to work as an informant for the Israeli police, to which he agrees.
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, there is a tension looming over its premise from start to finish even though it's mostly a tragic love story than a political thriller. The writing makes use of the difficult choices one is left with under difficult circumstances to great effect, the characters are believable, performances are authentic, camerawork is excellent & even though there are pacing issues, the story remains absorbing for the most part.
On an overall scale, Omar is an elegantly crafted drama that isn't about the ideology separating these two groups but is an exploration of the human condition in such an environment and tries to capture what it's like to live in constant fear & oppression. Part-moving, part-heartbreaking & part-infuriating, Omar may not be fairly balanced when it comes to its subject matter but is still worth a watch for what it's got to offer on the opposite side of the same coin.
★★★½ review by Dragonknight on Letterboxd
”All traitors fall at last.”
It’s hard to find a political conflict more complicated than the one between Palestinians and Israelis, six decades of brutality, intolerance, prejudice and extremism have led to the loss of countless numbers of lives from both sides and sadly the problem is too complex that finding a solution for it seems like an impossible task. In Omar Palestinian director, Hany Abu-Assad (whose Paradise, Now was also an Academy Award nominee) turns his camera toward this modern madness and gives us a gripping drama about ordinary people who gradually crack under the extraordinary pressure of this aimless conflict.
Although it’s hard to ignore the political side of Omar but before being a political movie it is a story about human beings who have to get along with their weaknesses and doubts, characters who realize that they are not capable of surviving a life of paranoia, lies, fears and betrayals, people who – like all of us – like to live a normal life but the situation they’re living in doesn't let them to do what they want to do, it puts them under pressure and soon their own doubts destroy them. Omar is not glamorizing the violence or terrorism, it’s not trying to justify what’s happening in Palestine, Hany Abu-Assad’s film is all about the destructive effects of an ongoing madness on human soul and it shows how that madness is ruining the life of various people who could have lived a peaceful and productive life. Everyone’s a loser in this war, it doesn't matter where they live or what they do.
As a thriller Omar is a very convincing movie, it is filled with insecurity and unpredictability, like its main protagonist we are not certain about the loyalty of people and their relationship to each other and Abu-Assad’s shaky camera adds to the tension and uncertainty of the whole story, Abu-Assad mixes the melodramatic and thrilling sides of the story perfectly and the film’s actors - specially Adam Bakri - all give sympathetic and powerful performances and make the heroes and villains believable. To be brief Omar is a smart, surprising and insightful thriller which focuses on one of the most complicated political conflicts of our time and gives us a fresh view. Don’t miss it.
★★★½ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd
TIFF 2013 – film#7
Reason for pick – director Hany Abu-Assad – Paradise Now
Abu-Assad tackles the difficult questions and circumstances surrounding life in the West Bank. He doesn’t produce propaganda, but rather sheds light on the real and everyday effects on the Palestinians who live there. Paradise Now was a critical lens on the indoctrination of suicide bombers. Here, in Omar, it’s more homegrown. A group of friends decide to create the own resistance cell. His style is subtle. Part of why the three take this path is because it’s cool, and what you’re supposed to do. Another part is deadly serious. Their first mission is a killing. It’s carried out, and then there’s the inevitable aftermath. The Israelis are brutally efficient, and in many ways outmatch any possible home grown rebellion. They know the ways, and if you are caught, they know how to exploit.
The interesting questions that Abu-Assad brings up here are trust and honesty among conspirators. Like with Paradise Now, we see that camaraderie and beliefs aren’t necessarily what they seem on the surface. Everyone needs to survive, and, maybe, will do whatever they need to do.
As far as an enjoyable action film experience, Omar is brilliant. Abu-Assad’s pacing and cinematography are spot-on, and rivals the best of Hollywood action / intrigue pictures. All of the actors give fantastic and believable performances.
It’s funny, though. Omar is as politically unbalanced as any run of the mill American action picture is, but you get this uncomfortable feeling that it’s aggrandizing terrorism. It’s less self-critical than Paradise Now, but, you have to realize that it’s a perspective of an oppressed people, and that voice is valid. That, in a way, balances things out.
Omar is enjoyable purely on an action / intrigue film level. It offers more though, it offers a voice.
★★★★ review by TajLV on Letterboxd
Film #21 in my A~Z Foreign Film Challenge
"You can't be a freedom fighter by watching." ~ Tarek
Neither a separation wall nor the threatening tactics of over-zealous Israeli military police can keep Omar (Adam Bakri) from pursuing the life of his dreams. That includes freedom for Arabs in the Occupied Territories and the love of a young student called Nadja (Leem Lubany), who is the sister of his childhood friend Tarek (Eyad Hourani). To complicate things, another friend named Amjad (Samer Bisharat) also fancies Nadja, and Tarek involves him and Omar in the killing of an Israeli soldier. When undercover agents apprehend and torture Omar to learn who pulled the trigger, a series of events are set in motion that will get the hapless youth branded as a traitor by his own people and cost him both the freedom and the love he so desires.
There is a stark realism to the filming, which took place in Nazareth, Israel and Nablus, Palestine. The uneasy tension of a war zone hovers over every scene. But this is less a commentary on social conditions than it is on the moral dilemma faced by Omar and his compatriots. How much are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want? How committed can you be to a cause or another person? And under what circumstances might you betray all that you say you hold dear?
I kept thinking of the French masterpiece "La Haine" as I watched this. The two films both deal with youth rebelling against circumstance and brutal authority. They both feature excellent cinematography and end with an unforgettable twist. The main difference is "Omar" is more raw. The conflict is political as well as cultural in the Middle East, which is mired in an inescapable atmosphere of distrust.
"Omar" is an impressive film, quite worthy of its Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film as well as the Cannes Film Festival Special Jury Award, "Un Certain Regard," given to director Hany Abu-Assad.
★★★★ review by Dylan Moses Griffin on Letterboxd
Hany Abu-Assad returns to Palestine once again for this rare balancing act of a film. While you could classify this film as a thriller, it effectively holds back at every turn to subvert how we typically perceive thrillers. It’s not just a slow burn of a thriller, it’s a no burn. And that’s not a criticism, that’s praise. Even in slow burns there is some variation of explosion within the characters or themes, but here it still holds a hard line of restraint in those explosions.
The plot revolves around the title character Omar, who is a member of a revolutionary outfit in Palestine. He is captured and manipulated into becoming an informer for Agent Rami, a man who wants Omar to give up his childhood friend Tarek in exchange for Omar’s freedom to be with his love Nadia.
No character is presented as just one thing, as any effective thriller will do. As much as Agent Rami is out to manipulate Omar, we see him struggle with mundane tasks of getting a relative to pick up his daughter from kindergarten. At points you believe he really does want the best for Omar. Omar’s friends and girlfriend all at points seem to be hiding ulterior motives behind their eyes.
What makes this mystique work is the acting. Almost all of the principle cast are newcomers, but understand the power of subtlety. Right in line with Abu-Assad’s direction, they hold back at each revelation in the plot. As Omar, Adam Bakri is mostly silent, letting the subtleties in his face do the character exposition. Just as his character would have to survive by not giving anything away, Bakri doesn’t give anything away to the camera. We are forced to search for it, and it’s an engaging search.
Abu-Assad has shown a formidable steady hand in his return to Palestinian films. As in his film “Paradise Lost”, there is definitely a political undercurrent in the film, but what you come away with is what it’s like to live in Palestine. And as a moviegoer, it’s much more effective to understand the everyday lives of those in this contentious place than to just make a statement about the problems there. The understanding of how awful things are there for Palestinians is only made effective through character. Abu-Assad understands this, and uses character effectively to get his message across in a way that does not hit you over the head, but rather beckons you to sit down and hear its tale.
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