A Glimpse Inside Occupied Palestine
We don’t get many Palestinian films in these parts. “Omar” is the Best Foreign Film nominee for Palestine at this year’s Academy Awards. Palestinian director Hany Abu Assad's controversial 2006 film “Paradise Now” was about suicide bombers. “Omar” is about the equally thorny problem of life in the Occupied Territories of Israel.
Omar (Adam Bakri) is a Palestinian baker who routinely scales a tall separation wall to visit his girlfriend Nadja (Leem Lubany). Pretty Nadja is still in school, but Omar is so smitten he wants to marry her- the sooner the better.
Nadia’s older brother Tarek (Eyad Hourani) is a fiery Palestinian “freedom fighter” who is also Omar’s best friend, as is fellow childhood friend Amjad (Samer Bisharat).
The guys act innocent by day, but by night they go out hunting the hated Israeli soldiers who enforce the law. One night one of the men kills an Israeli soldier. Everything immediately turns life-and-death serious.
“Jasoos” is an Arab word that means “traitor,” but in the volatile Israel-Palestine conflict it is something much worse than mere betrayal. Israel’s Shin Bet, which is kind of like their FBI, relies on jasoos to spill the beans on terrorist activity.
Agent Rami (Waleed F. Zuaiter) is the Shin Bet handler assigned to Omar. If Omar or his friends do not rat, Rami is not doing his job.
In essence everyone is doing their job. It’s just that everything is at murderous cross purposes. It’s a lose-lose situation, and unless something is resolved, the eternal conflict between Israel and Palestine will remain just that: eternal.
It comes as no surprise “Omar” won Best Film at the Dubai Film Festival, but it also won “Un Certain Regard” at Cannes in recognition of its deft, yes even entertaining handling of a tragic, confounding situation.