Omar is a tense thriller that throws the spotlight on young men growing up in a conflict-ridden society
Hany Abu-Assad’s, Omar, a Palestinian film, which won the jury prize for the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes film festival and the Muhr Arab best feature film award at the Dubai International film festival, has a rare quality of putting things in the right context. It is essentially a triangular love story set in the politically-charged West Bank. Three youths, Omar, Tarek and Amjad, who, like million others, are fed up with Israeli vigil and interference in the West Bank; decide to do something senseless that will in no way help their cause: kill an Israeli soldier. As the Israeli establishment fights back and locks up Omar, Tarek suspects that one member of his small rebel group has turned into a mole. Inscribed within this tense thriller is a dense triangular love story between Omar, Tarek’s sister, Nadia, and Amjad.
Trust me when I say that watching Omar would dislodge the stereotypical accounts of life in Palestine. Starting from privileging the identity of the Arab over that of religious identity, it is established as a place where the conflict has an effect not just on economy and politics but basic human relationships. Almost simultaneously, director Hany also maintains that it is after all a place, despite religious diktats, where youngsters still manage to find a secluded corner to steal a kiss. It is surprising to note that all the actors, who have performed so well, are not professionals. Especially Adam Bakri who plays Omar, a character that frequently requires him to switch from a steely rebel fighting foreign occupation to a love-struck youth dreaming of holding Nadia’s hand one day. Though the director has said that the film is primarily meant for Arab audiences, Omar will be lapped up by everyone. It is Palestine’s official entry for the Oscar this year.