BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
FEBRUARY 2, 2014
Five years ago, I started participating in what I call the Oscar Challenge, where I watch every single film nominated for an Academy Award that year, and it was for films like “Omar” that I started doing it in the first place. A Palestinian love story between a young man and his best friend’s sister, “Omar” was one of the most impressive foreign films to come out of the Academy Awards last year. Divided by an enormous wall that Omar traverses daily to see Nadia, his love interest, they attempt to keep their relationship a secret from her brother and his childhood best friend, Tarek. But in occupied Palestine, the childhood friends have more going on in their lives than hidden love affairs. Mistreated and humiliated constantly, Omar, Tarek, and their other close friend, Amjad, seek vengeance and kill a soldier to which Omar takes the fall and is tortured. What follows next is Omar stuck between a rock and a hard place, as a detective attempts to use him to flush out the rest of the revolt.
No matter where the narrative leads, the love story is constantly front and center, and never takes the easy way out. After Omar is released from prison, rumors fly around that he is working against the revolt, a rumor that drives a spike in the heart of Omar and Nadia’s relationship. In the ultimate string unraveling the sweater, the lies and twists and turns carry on throughout the entire film, where you are never sure who to trust and people are never what they seem, and there is barely anything left by the end of the film. “Omar” rivals anything coming out of Hollywood these days in terms of political thrillers and even love stories. With most of the actors acting for the first time, there is an understanding and complete grasp of the characters projected by most of the cast, particularly the lead, Adam Bakri and Iyad Hourani, who plays Tarek. Also, the unbelievably and naturally gorgeous Nadia played by Leem Lubany steals the show. If there is one person that comes out of this with a bright future in acting, it is her. Had I randomly come across this film without the Oscar Challenge, I may have just looked the other way and continued, but sometimes being forced to watch something produces the best possible outcome and “Omar” definitely lands as a must-see to anyone on the fence.
October 11, 2013