The film component of this year’s OzAsia Festival features four winning films from the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, which are the highest accolade in the film industry in the Asia Pacific region. 2013 Palestinian thriller Omar not only took Best Film last year, but took the Jury Prize at Cannes amongst other international awards.
It’s a tense and tragic romantic tale of a Palestinian freedom fighter in love with an Israeli girl on the other side of the security wall. Far from being a romance story however, the title character discovers the depths to which people can sink when, on one clandestine visit over the West Bank barrier, he and his mates kill an Israeli soldier. Caught, tortured and forced to act as an informant, that initial event sparks a chain of violent and tragic events that will engulf them all.
Writer and director Hany Abu-Assad intertwines the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the more mundane tale of Omar’s relationships with his girl and his friends, including a love triangle that brings forth a clear picture of the cultural expectations that restrict male-female relationships. The tight action nicely balances some slower, gentler moments with the more graphic scenes of violence and drama but the location itself, in the heart of the West Bank, is enough to keep tensions high throughout.
The relatively inexperienced cast is superb, led by Adam Bakri as the sensitive focus of the tale, and Samer Bisharat as his playful best friend Amjad. Both their characters are in love with sweet Nadia (Leem Lubany), the young sister of the resistance leader Tarek (Iyad Hoorani). Any sign of inexperience in these relative newcomers is lost in the subtleties of their performances, which equally match the like of Waleed Zuaiter as the Israeli case officer who condemns Omar and his friends to the trajectory they must follow.
Outside of the glimpse this film gives to a lifestyle so different from our own, there’s not a lot new in the overall story and subplots themselves but the fine acting and Abu-Assad’s vision offers enough twists and taut moments to keep it engaging right through to the surprising and satisfying end.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
OzAsia on Screen – Omar
When: 6 September at 6.30pm & 14 September at 7.30pm
Where: Mercury Cinema, Lion Arts Centre, 13 Morphett Street, Adelaide
Tickets: $13 – $17
Bookings: Book online through the OzAsia Festival website or phone BASS on 131 246