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"Omar" is so topical in content and authentic in form that it feels as though it had been ripped straight from the morning's headlines. This Oscar-nominated Palestinian film may not be as "fair and balanced" in its depiction of the seemingly endless and intractable Mid East conflict as some might wish it to be, but, like all good social dramas, the movie is far more concerned with exploring the human condition than with scoring political points.
Omar (Adam Bakri) is a young Palestinian baker who, at great risk to himself, regularly scales the massive wall that runs through occupied Palestine to hang out with his friends, Tarek (Iyad Hoorani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat), and to carry on a secret romance with his girlfriend, Nadia (Leem Lubany), who also happens to be Tarek's sister. The three young men are also active as "freedom fighters," dedicated to liberating their people from Israeli control. After Amjad shoots and kills an Israeli soldier, Omar is arrested and coerced into becoming a spy in exchange for his freedom. Against this backdrop of simmering social and ethnic unrest, the bonds of friendship are tested in ways that will surprise and move you.
Though the geographic, sectarian and boundary issues could be a bit more clearly defined for audiences less familiar with the area, the screenplay by Hany Abu-Assad finds its truth in its portrayal of what day-to-day life is like for the ordinary people who call that part of the world home. Omar and his buddies may be passionately partisan about their cause, but that doesn't mean they aren't complex, three- dimensional characters in their own right. For underneath all the outward bravado and righteous bluster, they are still just "boys" after all, with all the interests and concerns that all young men have who are embarking on this journey we call life - a journey made all the more arduous and challenging by the world in which they live.
Assad's direction is taut when it needs to be (particularly in the striking foot chases through the narrow streets and alleyways of the prison-like city) and observant and patient when that is what is called for.
All the actors are excellent, but special mention must be made of young Bakri, who, as the title character, runs the emotional gamut from explosive to sheepish without missing a beat, his sly, toothy grin standing in direct counterpoint to his steely gaze and serious mien. It is Bakri who largely cuts through the polemics and who makes the story one to which all of us can relate. Well worth seeing.
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