‘Omar’: Foreign film nominee depicts the daily rhythms of the West Bank
By Mary Houlihan For Sun-Times Media February 27, 2014 5:46PM
Adam Bakri and Leem Lubany in “Omar.” | ADOPT FILMS
Omar Adam Bakri
Agent Rami Waldeed Zuaiter
Amjad Samer Bisharat
Nadia Leem Lubany
Tarek Eyad Hourani
Adopt Films presents a film written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles. Running time: 98 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at Landmark Century Centre and Landmark Renaissance Place in Highland Park.
Updated: April 1, 2014 9:48AM
Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad received his first Oscar nod for 2005’s “Paradise Now,” a tense drama that chronicled the last days of two suicide bombers. He now has a second foreign language nomination for “Omar,” an involving film in which he stacks the reality of Israeli occupation alongside everyday life in the West Bank.
Adam Bakri plays Omar, a baker by trade, who in order to visit his friends must scale the Israeli-built security wall that divides Palestinian towns. Also on the opposite side of the wall is the girl he loves, Nadia (a luminous Leem Lubany), who he hopes to marry and take on a Parisian honeymoon.
But on the West Bank, love and loyalty have a variety of meanings. Omar is part of a threesome, along with Nadia’s brother, Tarek (Eyad Hourani), and another friend, Amjad (Samer Bisharat), who are training on their own for an action against the Israelis. After Amjad shoots a border guard, the three are chased through the streets but only Omar is caught. He is tortured and interrogated until finally an Israeli agent (Waleed Zuaiter) offers him a deal: Omar will be released but he has to betray his friends in return for his freedom.
Devastated at being caught in a no-win situation, Omar attempts to work both sides. But people (including Nadia) suspect he is a traitor, and his reputation is tarnished.
A cast of mostly first-time actors shade the film with a touching realism. Bakri offers a masterful performance, portraying Omar as kind and easygoing while also tamping down those traits in an atmosphere of suspicion and betrayal.
Abu-Assad offers no solutions here. Instead he paints a portrait of the daily rhythms of the occupation, an endless conflict that has seeped into every aspect of life in the West Bank. On one side is the desire to have a normal life with a wife (or husband), family and a home; on the other is the inbred desire to see Palestine a free country. The film’s final scene is chilling and, sadly for Omar, inevitable.