Omar, film review: Hany Abu-Assad’s Oscar-nominated thriller is shot from the heart, The independent, Thursday 29 May 2014,Geoffrey Macnab
Hany Abu-Assad’s Oscar-nominated Omar has an intensity that many Cold War spy films lack. It is an embroiled story of spy craft and betrayal but this time, the setting isn’t Berlin or George Smiley’s London.
The film unfolds in the present day, in the heart of occupied Palestine. Abu-Assad’s screenplay expertly interweaves personal and political elements. This is at once a coming-of-age drama, a romance and a thriller that combines multiple reversals and plot twists with chases and action sequences.
The Luxury of Unhappiness: Director Hany Abu-Assad Talks Omar, by Livia Bloom in Directors, Interviews , on Feb 24, 2014
In 2002, Palestine made its first Best Foreign Language Film submission to the Academy Awards. Despite accepting films from Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not accept their submission.
But by the next year, the policy had changed: the Palestinian Ministry of Culture’s submission, Divine Intervention by Elia Suleiman, was accepted. Three years later, Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now, the acclaimed and controversial story of two Palestinian men planning a suicide attack on Tel Aviv, was not only accepted as Palestine’s submission, it was also one of the final five nominees competing for the award at the Oscar ceremony.
Now, Abu-Assad has been nominated again: this time for Omar, the taut, deceptively simple tale of a young Palestinian baker (Adam Bakri) drawn into romance with Nadia, a schoolgirl (Elia Suleiman); political violence with Tarek and Amjad, his childhood friends (Eyad Hourani and Samer Bisharatan); and espionage with a Rami, a powerful Israeli agent (Waleed Zuaiter). Omar was an official selection of festivals including New York, Toronto and Cannes, where the film won the Un Certain Regard section’s Jury Prize.
Filmmaker: What brought you to Omar?
Abu-Assad: I was in Los Angeles working on another movie. Suddenly, at four o’clock in the morning, I woke up in a nightmare. I was sweating. I re-read the script and thought, “This is not going to be a good movie.” The combination of the production, the script, everything together gave me this feeling of anxiety. I started thinking, “What is a good movie? What kind of stories do I want to tell?” I panicked.
And then I started to write. At eight in the morning I finished the outline of Omar as it is now.
At the time, I was in an apartment on a small street, near Wilshire and Hauser. Do you know L.A.? Weather-wise, it’s great. But everybody’s unhappy. They’re all unhappy in the good weather.
Hany Abu-Assad on ‘Omar’ and Strange Coincidences, The Carpetbagger, Blog of The New York Times, December 11, 2013 By Larry Rohter
(…) In “Omar,” the title character is an adolescent in love with his best friend’s sister, but separated from her by Israeli-erected walls and the restrictive sexual mores of his own society. Eventually, it becomes clear that someone in the group of young friends is collaborating with Israeli intelligence, and an effort to unmask the traitor begins, sowing suspicion and jealousy.
Q. To much of the outside world, Palestinians seem defined as a society by the conflict with Israel. Do you find that to be a straightjacket?
A. Sure. You are not a politician as a moviemaker, you are a storyteller. Most important for me in making a movie is what this movie will give me inside, as a human being.