Cannes 2013 – Un Certain Regard – Winner – A Certain Regard Special Jury Prize
Oscars 2014 – Best Foreign Language Film Nomination
Omar is accustomed to dodging surveillance bullets to cross the separation wall to visit his secret love Nadia. But occupied Palestine knows neither simple love nor clear-cut war. On the other side of the wall, the sensitive young baker Omar becomes a freedom fighter who must face painful choices about life and manhood. When Omar is captured after a deadly act of resistance, he falls into a cat-and-mouse game with the military police. Suspicion and betrayal jeapordize his longtime trust with accomplices and childhood friends Amjad and Tarek, Nadia’s militant brother. Omar’s feelings quickly become as torn apart as the Palestinian landscape. But it’s soon evident that everything he does is for his love of Nadia.
A tragic love story from the award-winning director of PARADISE NOW (Golden Globe, Independent Spirit, Oscar nominee).
Adam Bakri (as Omar)
Hany Abu-Assad returns to form with “Omar,” his first Palestinian feature since the justifiably lauded “Paradise Now”… Deliberately ambiguous in how it approaches the inexorable nexus of violence, “Omar” will trouble those looking for condemnation rather than the messiness of humanity… As he did with “Paradise Now,” Abu-Assad refuses to demonize characters for their poor choices. Only too aware of the crushing toll of the Occupation on Palestinians, he shows men (the film is male-centric) making tragic, often self-destructive decisions as a result of an inescapable environment of degradation and violence. With “Omar” he’s finessed the profile, depicting how the weaknesses that make us human, especially love, can lead, in such a place, to acts of betrayal. It’s as if he’s taken thematic elements from Westerns and film noir, using the fight for dignity and an atmosphere of doubt to explain rather than excuse heinous actions. Viewers with a firm moral compass, who see killing as an act always to be condemned, won’t need “Omar” to tell them what’s right and wrong… Apart from the superb Waleed F. Zuaiter (also producing), the attractive cast consists of actors making their feature debuts. Bakri’s steeliness doesn’t completely cover Omar’s vulnerability, made more acute by his love for Nadja. Wisely, Abu-Assad puts plenty of humorous lines in his characters’ mouths, revealing an ear for natural dialogue and the daily jokes friends exchange no matter what pressures they’re under. Lubany’s fresh girlishness acts as an important reminder that these are people barely touching adulthood, highlighting the “Romeo and Juliet” quality of the romance angle (which of course has its own betrayals). All the actors have an easy confidence that’s vital for their frequent closeups, underscoring their humanity rather than their function as illustrations of a well-known conflict…
— Jay Weissberg, VARIETY
Probably the first fiction film to exclusively fly the Palestinian flag… With a cast consisting almost entirely of young, new, inexperienced talents, Hany Abu Assad delivers an effective, credible, drama for an international audience… Abu Assad navigates confidently around the potholes, keeping the story tightly knit, and adding to the political aspects, as seen from the Palestinian side, the details required to establish a necessary background… Adam Bakri has a strong camera presence and Leem Lubany’s expressive eyes often deliver messages beyond the dialogue, while Waleed F. Zuaiter, the only experienced actor in the cast (also one of the film’s producers) manages to lend the sinister Israeli agent Rami an almost human quality. Israelis may very well claim that procedures, uniforms and security forces conduct is inaccurate, Palestinians may not like the reference to so many informants in their midst, but if both sides complain, it is probable Abu Assad did something right.
— Dan Fainaru, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL
A strong storyline about the West Bank and its endless cycle of violence… Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, known for his portrait of suicide bombers in "Paradise Now," is back with another strong story from the region… whether the film glorifies its young West Bank protagonist as a hero or pities him as a loser without options, it forces the audience to reflect on the endless violence and retaliation in the occupied territories… The whole cast of non-pro actors contributes a sense of realism to the tale, with Bakri a stand-out in expressing the defiant confusion of youth. Abu-Assad and his cinematographer Ehab Assal have every shot under control and rarely need to go overboard to convey a strong emotion.
— Deborah Young, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
Surprise-filled plot, and a standout performance from Palestinian-American actor Waleed Zuaiter, as an affable-seeming Israeli police agent who masterfully plays on Omar’s fears.
— Liam Lacey, THE GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada)
Director Abu-Assad builds a plot as labyrinthine as the narrow back alleys of the town. Fear, self-interest, and misperceptions cause each and every character to have a changing face and a dubious agenda… Films set against the background of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict more often have plots that can be seen in simple black and white terms, with the Israelis as the villains. The occupiers are indeed the villains in “Omar,” but the story goes deeper in creating a chain of wrongs and perpetrators that grow out of twisted circumstances of the occupation and the impossible demands placed on what were once clear-cut bonds of family and friendship.
— Barbara Scharres, ROGEREBERT.COM (USA)
A thriller as nervous as his hero is gracious…
—Thomas Sotinel, LE MONDE (France)
OMAR is much like its predecessor, an award-worthy film that always stays close and loving to its main characters and accompanied by the madness of their lives. But apart from that, this film has a particular value, which makes it one of the best of this year's Cannes program. It's hard to describe it, it’s all about the atmosphere… This movie hits straight to the heart, it is impossible to escape...
— Beatrice Behn, KINO-ZEIT (Germany)