Hany Abu-Assad, “Omar”, (2013)

Omar, Tareq and Amjad are childhood friends and nowadays the three of them form a small brigade of Palestinian insurgents. In the middle is Nadia, Tareq’s sister, who endears both Omar and Ajmad with a hidden exchange of messages. However, this is not a typical love story, nor it is the carrot-on-the-stick to keep the large audience interested. Palestinian film industry has been exploring the topics of movement, violent and peaceful resistance, fantasy and comedy. But this movie goes a step further and questions whether love and the liberation of the homeland are intertwined and even opposed.

“Why tonight?”

“Every day we wait is another day of occupation.”

omar

The small brigade shoots and kills an Israeli soldier. From then onward the storyline is a succession of persecution, torture, deals and betrayals, but nobody knows who is who until the unsettling end. The wonderfully manufactured twists of the story will surprise the audience who is led and misled by the skillfully written plot. While the first half of the movie is a description of the rise and fall of the three friends and their plans to free Palestine, the second half is a multilayered string of personal salvations, manipulations and double games.

Whenever a revolutionary presents himself, the name of the group to which he belongs follows directly after his name, as if personal identity was hijacked by politics, by parties, by guns. It is so to the point the Omar is unable to distinguish liberation from occupation, revolution from threats, traitors from those who call him traitor. Everything is contained in his one big walled life.

“We will find out without you, but every guilty will be punished”

Information becomes the key to the movie and to Omar’s life. Unsurprisingly he is unwilling to surrender it to any one, either the Israeli intelligence or the leaders of his brigade. At some point, knowledge becomes pain and not necessarily in the form of torture in a cell.

hany-abu-assad

Hany Abu-Hassan

Hany Abu-Hassan demonstrates in this movie that the human depth he was able to show in 2005 with “Paradise Now” was by no means fortuitous. From the beginning to the end “Omar” deploys all kind of resources to bring the spectator to the emotional core of contradiction and overlapping loyalties. Undoubtedly, he is claiming the leading role of the artistic voice attempting to unveil the personal miseries of armed insurgency in Palestine. His condition as Nazareth-born could very well be at the root of this.

An interesting question that Abu-Hassan introduces is that of the truthfulness of the people to their own language and, eventually, to their own people. Many have questioned whether the Arab citizens of Israel are Palestinians or Israelis, but this time is Omar who questions the Arab-ness of the Hebrew speaking Israeli officer. This is an interesting hint that might give some fruits for either political or personal unfolding in and out of the movies.

All in all, this is an indispensable film not only for its socio-political lessons on the hardships of occupation; but also for its artistic qualities in all fronts: writing, directing and acting. Superb.

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