The relatively new state of Palestine is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Best Foreign Language Film powerhouses like Italy and France. But if anyone’s been able to put the West Bank on the world-cinema map, it’s Hany Abu-Assad. Born in Nazareth, the writer-director earned his (and his homeland’s) first Oscar nod for 2005’s Paradise Now, a tense ticktock chronicle of the last hours of a pair of suicide bombers. He’s just earned his second trip to the Academy Awards with Omar — a harrowing, humane Arabic-language import about life under occupation that’s part Romeo-and-Juliet love story and part twisty chess-pawn thriller. Adam Bakri stars as the quietly charismatic Omar, a baker who climbs back and forth over the towering Israeli security wall to visit his girlfriend, Nadia (sad-eyed beauty Leem Lubany). After being routinely harassed by Israeli police, Omar and his two buddies shoot a random border guard — less out of political conviction than as a way to regain some sort of power in their powerless lives. Abu-Assad never tries to justify the act. How could he? Instead, he zeroes in on the aftermath: the paranoia and breakdown of loyalty among people who have been friends since birth. With the exception of Waleed F. Zuaiter, who does a remarkable good-cop act as an Israeli agent, the cast is composed of first-time actors who bring realism to a tragic story. It manages to punch you in the gut and break your heart at the same time. A-
OMAR GOODNESS This latest import from the director of Paradise Now is a brilliant tale of love and loss. (Adopt Films)
Genre: Mystery and Thriller, Drama; Starring: Adam Bakri, Leem Lubany, Waleed F. Zuaiter; Director: Hany Abu-Assad; Runtime (in minutes): 98; MPAA Rating: Unrated; Distributor: Adopt Films
Posted March 5 2014 — 12:00 AM EST
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