OMAR (Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, 2013)
Omar is a young Palestinian man.. who works as a baker, (played by Adam Bakrie – a brilliant performance). He and his two childhood friends, Tarek and Amjad, are involved in what the Israelis call terrorism, and what they call fighting for their land. One of his friends, Tarek has a beautiful young sister, Nadia, and she and Omar are in love. Nadia is in senior high school and Omar must risk his life to visit their home or saunter past her school and talk to her over the fence. He scales up a rope, over the 10 metre wall that divides their town, getting shot at by the Israeli soldiers, and he runs on winged-feet through the narrow lanes to bang on their door. The two exchange complicit smiles, and Omar is waiting for the time when he can approach Tarek (as head of the family) about marrying the sweet Nadia.
But, the three young men are also planning an ‘action’. Amjad is being initiated into the freedom fight, so he has been practising his marksmanship. One night, with his friends beside him, he randomly picks out and kills an Israeli guard, his first participation in the freedom-fighting.
As the Israelis already know Omar from intercepting him as he came over the wall, he is arrested and tortured. He refuses to speak under torture. He thinks his interrogator is also a Palestinian, so good is the man’s second language. But no – he’s Israeli, as Omar finds out when the man takes a phone call from his wife.
The interrogator is now trying a new tactic, devious, devilish. A web of lies, betrayals, and tragedy ensues when the interrogator lets Omar go home, on the condition that he will help them to capture Tarek, whom they think is the one who killed their soldier. Omar thinks he can play a double game, and certainly has no intention of betraying anyone, but with the Israeli intelligence organisation, this is not so easy. They know everyone and everything, and are deadly efficient. His plan fails, and soon he’s back in prison for more of the same.
The second time he’s let out, for similar reasons, the murky web of lies and circumstances woven by the Israelis, has changed beyond Omar’s knowing. His people no longer trust him, but he still struggles to achieve his desires – to clear his name, and marry Nadia. Omar doesn’t know who he can trust either. Omar is desperately isolated as he tries to understand what has happened while he has been imprisoned and suffering torture.
From here on, the story is filled with more and more cruel twists, evil revelations and each one surprises you more than the last. It becomes apparent that the influence of the Israeli army and intelligence unit is malignant, and has reached into the hearts, minds and homes, of everybody.
The denouement of Omar’s story has shocking impact. As you think about it while sitting stunned on your chair, the credits roll, and you realize there is no alternative for Omar, and everything is polluted and lost.
You also realize, not only is it the story of one young man and his friends, and it is also the story of the Palestinian nation. You feel angry, and yet helpless – a bitter sense of reality falls upon you.
But please do not let this deter you from seeing this very important and brilliant piece of cinema.
It’s a stunning film, and a strong contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, for which it is nominated.
Review by Cynthia Webb