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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Omar review: trust no one

Omar green light Adam Bakri Leem Lubany

Palestine’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar is terse, tense suspense drama, and less overtly political than you might expect.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s less overtly political than you might expect, Palestine’s official submission for this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language film (and one of the nominees): Omar could be much the same terse, tense suspense drama if it were taking place in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, or in East Berlin in the 1960s, or in almost any place at almost any time when a small band of resistance fighters push against a far more powerful — and some would say despotic — ruling force. Omar (Adam Bakri) has to climb high walls separating Palestinian neighborhoods and risk getting shot at in order to meet up with Nadia (Leem Lubany), though their romance is a secret even from her brother, Tarek (Iyad Hoorani), with whom Omar is planning an attack on local Israeli military forces. The harassment Omar is subjected to by Israeli patrols is petty compared to the literal torture he endures later, when he is arrested after their attack has some small success. Omar’s seemingly too-quick release from prison sows discontent among his insurgent friends, because they suspect that he has turned traitor — and, indeed, Omar has agreed to spy on his friends for Shin Bet agent Rami (Waleed Zuaiter: Sex and the City 2). Or, at least, he has pretended to agree, and now is trying to set up a double-cross of the Israelis. But Rami is also far more sympathetic than Omar could ever have expected… Writer-director Hany Abu-Assad juggles his characters, their motivations, and their complicated emotions deftly, creating a compelling portrait of a situation in which there are no winners, only varying degrees of losing, and in which suspicion can be a life-saver.


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Omar (2014)
US/Can release: Feb 21 2014
UK/Ire release: May 30 2014

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, torture, strong language)

viewed on my iPad

IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Looks from the trailer as though it’ll be a tough one to watch. But probably worth it…

  • David

    “if it were taking place in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, or in East
    Berlin in the 1960s, or in almost any place at almost any time when a
    small band of resistance fighters push against a far more powerful — and
    some would say despotic — ruling force.”

    I take it from the quote that you’re an IRA supporter. Am I wrong, and if not how does that go over with your friends in London?

  • I’m not particularly a supporter of the IRA. But yes, when I run around London screaming “Death to England!” I do get some sideways glances.

  • David

    Yes, I imagine you would, especially when you’re wearing your American flag pants/Irish flag shirt ensemble.

    For some reason I am reminded of when I was in Iraq in ’09. There was a group of American soldiers and Iraqi soldiers, small group, no more than 12; we were waiting around in a dusty building and watching movies. I think the first movie we were watching was MAC and Me. When that ended I picked out the next movie: Red Dawn (1984). Everybody seemed to enjoy it and cheered as the Wolverines blew up Russian occupying forces. Soon enough Iraqis and Americans shouted, “kill the occupiers!” in unison.

  • David

    If you want to get a feel for what people in the areas think this is a really good channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/coreygilshuster

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