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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent movie from Palestine is compelling from start to finish
"Omar" (2013 release from Palestine; 96 min.) brings the story of Omar and his friends Tarek and Amjad. As the movie opens, we see Omar climbing over the separation wall (dividing Israel from the West bank) to see the girl of his dreams, Nadja. Tarek pushes Omar and Amjad to be more active in their fight against the Israelis, and at one point they shoot and kill...
Published 5 months ago by Paul Allaer

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Omar ok
Glad I rented it. Story reminded me of some of Shakespeare's works like Othello and Romeo & Juliette, mixed with Homeland. Not great but good.
Published 4 months ago by S. Lewis


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent movie from Palestine is compelling from start to finish, April 4, 2014
This review is from: Omar [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
"Omar" (2013 release from Palestine; 96 min.) brings the story of Omar and his friends Tarek and Amjad. As the movie opens, we see Omar climbing over the separation wall (dividing Israel from the West bank) to see the girl of his dreams, Nadja. Tarek pushes Omar and Amjad to be more active in their fight against the Israelis, and at one point they shoot and kill an Israeli border guard, but it isn't long before Omar is apprehended by the Israeli police. Given the choice of being jailed for many years, or instead to be set free and lure Tarek into the hands of the Israelis, Omar chooses the latter. In a separate story line, we learn that Amjad also has his eyes on Nadja. Is Omar really going to snitch on his friends? Who will win Nadja's heart? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: first, when you get a Palestine movie in which there is conflict with the Israelis, you automatically expect that this will be a political movie. Yet it really isn't the case at all. Instead, this movie looks at the conflicts of being a reluctant informant, and the resulting mind games being played. Second, this is an equally compelling family drama, with two guys chasing the same girl, of course in the context of strict family traditions and even stricter religion. Third, the movie contains a number of great performances, including Adam Bakri in the title role and the beautiful Leem Lubany in the role of Nadja. Last but certainly not least, I never saw the end coming, and it frankly was a little bit of a shock.

"Omar" scored an Oscar nomination earlier this year for Best Foreign Language Movie. The category was pretty stacked this year, and it didn't win. That doesn't take anything away from this movie, though, which I found compelling from start to finish. I saw "Omar" in late February at the West End Cinema in Washington DC, and the early matinée showing where I saw it, was reasonably well attended. This movie certainly deserves to be seen (as are all the other Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Movie), be it in the theater or on DVD/Blu-ray. "Omar" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fable of Palestine, June 22, 2014
This review is from: Omar (Subtitled) (Amazon Instant Video)
The darkness at the center of Omar sneaks up on the viewer: it is not apparent in the opening scenes, which establish a tone that is not dissimilar from a lot of uplifting issue films, portraying in color-soaked and agile shots the playful camaraderie that exists between its young West Bank protagonists, with a harsher edge suggested by the backdrop of the Israeli occupation and the dividing wall which separates the friends from each other.

The story is told entirely from the title character’s point of view. Omar (Adam Bakri) is an athletic, handsome, and charismatic young man, a baker by trade, and a resistance fighter. While his relationship with his family is minimally detailed, Tarek (Eyad Hourani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat) appear to be an extended family of sorts: Tarek is an older brother figure, a leader in the resistance, while Amjad looks and acts like the youngest of the three, a diminutive, lanky comedian; there is also Tarek’s younger sister, Nadia (Leem Lubany), whose affections are one of the principal reasons Omar risks the fire of Israeli military patrols to scale the wall. Omar wants to seek her hand in marriage; Tarek, as Nadia’s protector, intuits their relationship; and Amjad thinks he may have a chance as well. This dynamic is established in one brief scene with minimal dialogue.

The three young men are shown firing guns and practicing self-defense in a small forest, chatting and joking; the psychological burden of the occupation is elucidated in Omar’s dangerous encounters with the patrols. After escaping their (presumably warning) pot shots several times while scaling the wall, which seems to be merely part of his daily routine, Omar is stopped by a patrol group while walking home, humiliated, and then physically injured by one of the heavily armed and armored soldiers. He consults with Tarek and Amjad: he wants to execute the plan they have been working on ahead of schedule.

The execution of the plan involves killing an Israeli soldier stationed at a nearby facility. The three young men use nightfall as cover, hiding in the bushes with a high-powered rifle. Amjad’s responsibility is to shoot: Tarek planned the killing and Omar stole and drove the car; everyone must have a responsibility. Further, Tarek wants Amjad to commit himself more fully to the cause. Amjad shoots and kills the man, and they flee under a hail of automatic gunfire.

At this point, the audience is presented with the dilemma of how to view three otherwise likeable protagonists who have just murdered in cold blood. Director Hany Abu-Assad is no stranger to controversy of this nature, having directed Paradise Now (2005), which followed a similar group of men as they prepared for a suicide bombing in Israel. Abu-Assad aims to fully emotionally invest the audience in Omar’s lived experience without asking viewers to embrace his actions. After all, why shouldn’t an audience be capable of relating to someone who commits murder, or to any other human being for that matter? Good art often makes us sympathize with a person whose values we would utterly reject. That is one of the principal purposes of art, and if it is scary and discomfiting for the viewer, it is successful.

Omar is captured by Israeli intelligence officers shortly after the shooting, and a guileful agent named Rami (in an excellent turn by Palestinian American actor Walid Zuaiter) tries to turn him into a collaborator. Thus begins an ambiguous and sordid descent into the chess match between Israeli intelligence and Palestinian fighters: Omar is coerced, manipulated, threatened, mistrusted, and fed lies by multiple parties. Eager to prove his faithfulness to the cause, he tries to play a dangerous double game. As a viewer it is painful to watch as a young man with immense potential throws it away in an act of violent retribution; as he grapples to find a thread of hope even as the viewer sees all possible exits being sealed around him, trapping him in the crumbling façade of a life.

There is a distinct existential and moral landscape, evocative of Kafka and of Orwell, which I think Abu-Assad evokes well – and it is not an easy task to capture the oneiric shadow of Kafka’s omnipresent state, or the violent cognitive dissonance and profound loss of selfhood to which Winston Smith succumbs in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Israel’s occupying presence is portrayed in Abu-Assad’s film as a vast, tentacular structure which pervades every interaction, an overwhelming presence to which all must submit. Rami is chimeric: Omar knows nothing about him except what Rami wants to show him – I even questioned whether phone conversations he has with his mother and wife in front of Omar are real – but the agent seems two steps ahead of his ward at all times. The Palestinian protagonists of the film are played against each other cynically; they forsake their communal ethics in order to survive, stew in bitterness and resentment, and question their own ability to distinguish the truth.

2009′s widely acclaimed Ajami was praised for portraying the flawed but intact humanity on all sides of the conflict, but I found it contrived, predictable, and ultimately misguided. It is self-evident that there is humanity and common ground to be found, but what is more challenging to get across in a profound and relatable way is the fear and hatred that so often stifles all parties’ better sentiments in long-standing conflicts. I cannot judge whether Abu-Assad’s depiction will ring true with all Palestinians, or comment on whether his depiction of Israeli forces is just. It will inevitably raise questions about propaganda and political art, as a one-P.O.V. depiction of a multi-sided conflict, as a film which has been embraced by many of those who are most directly affected by the political realities it evinces, and received praise from broader audiences. It could be viewed as an apologia for counterproductive violence; but Abu-Assad’s depiction of humanity as a whole is unflattering, not merely the Israeli forces. The film looks realist but is fabular at its heart. It reveals character in a way that sometimes subtly skirts the line of misanthropy and raises questions about the darker aspects of human nature. Importantly, it does not offer facile hope, and contains subtle critiques of those who have turned the conflict into kitsch campaigns. It is a significant contribution to the annals of art relating the shifting dynamics of the Israel-Palestine relationship, and an exemplum of how human values can be degraded and identities lost when freedom of movement and thought is denied.
[...]
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars roseread, May 5, 2014
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This review is from: Omar (Subtitled) (Amazon Instant Video)
I worked for the isreali gov several times ,so I began to understand the desporate problems that exist there..there has been conflict and killings for over 50 years ,fifty,,that means people have lived /and died,and never in thier lives ,knew anything but war...this sensitive well done film shows the Arab side,..,golda maier said it best..,"there will never never be peace here until those that want to make war,will want to make peace."..we cannot know how lucky we are to be Americans....a good movie. Watch it and understand a little more,,
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4.0 out of 5 stars Universal portrayal of a controversial issue, August 24, 2014
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This review is from: Omar (DVD)
****1/2

"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 that all of us can relate to. Well worth seeing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What does Omar have in common with Jesus?, August 7, 2014
By 
E. Kelley (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Omar (DVD)
It's rare to see the Palestinian side of the story. Judging by the latest spins by corporate media in their pathetic coverage of Israel's barbaric onslaught in Gaza, the average person will have no idea what Palestinians are subjected to by the state of Israel and the pressures they are under from their own people. "Omar" brilliantly portrays with great psychological insight the rage of the oppressed and the evil of the oppressor. As a West Bank Palestinian, Omar lives under the longest and one of the most brutal military occupations in modern history. The land of historic Palestine has been reduced to 22% of what it was in 1947--before the war of '48 and the creation of the state of Israel. Now even that 22% has been segmented into bantustans and Palestinians cannot even move from one of their own towns to another without the obstruction of Jewish-only by-pass roads, illegal settlements and, of course, the Apartheid wall. Omar was born into this reality. His deep desire to live a life of dignity as a simple baker and to marry the love of his life, Nadja, is constantly thwarted by barriers whose single origin is the Israeli "handler". Israel controls the whole geography, builds stone walls that separate the lovers, shoots to kill any climbers, threatens and bribes Palestinians to betray their own. Omar in Arabic has many meanings, some of which are "one who never quits", "one who protects his brother", "lovely" and "strong". If Omar were a character in the New Testament, he might be one of the Zealots who resisted the Roman occupiers through violent means. And Jesus, a Palestinian Jew living under the same occupation, would attempt to convince Omar to try nonviolent tactics instead. But it wouldn't matter to Rome or to Israel. Both Jesus and Omar are crucified one way or another. The nonviolent and the violent suffer the same injustice because we are dealing with the blind, amoral nature of power. We are dealing with the blindness of a regime than can wreak terror and destruction on babies, like Israel did in Gaza and like Herod did in Bethlehem.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the hour and 37 minutes, July 20, 2014
This review is from: Omar (Subtitled) (Amazon Instant Video)
Another in an increasingly lengthy list of superb foreign-made movies I have seen in the past five years. It speaks well of the daily tension, hopes, fears, reality and clash of cultures that is Palestine and Israel. I believe this ranks up there close to my favorite, "Lemon Tree," as well as "Paradise Now." If we could just get the western world to watch some of these great movies -- made by producers all over the world but rarely seen by the average movie goer in the U.S. -- we might at least begin to crack the shell of indifference and ignorance of world conflict.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great work by the director of "Paradise Now"., May 15, 2014
By 
Erol Esen (Rochester, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Omar (Subtitled) (Amazon Instant Video)
“Omar” was released on May 21, 2013, and only couple of days ago I was able to watch it on Amazon Instant Video. That’s almost a whole year before I could watch it. Months after the Oscars. I really hope Hany Abu-Assad’s next movie has better distribution channels.

Abu-Assad is a genius. This has been well established by his last movie, “Paradise Now” almost 10 years ago. OK, there was another movie called, “The Courier”, starring Mickey Rourke and released in 2012. But that doesn’t count because I can’t watch it on Amazon, and not even Rotten Tomatoes have it on their list of movies.

Although it’s been written that Abu-Assad wrote “Omar” in four days, it’s been probably brewing in Abu-Assad’s mind for a decade. While “Paradise Now” showed the explosive nature of youth seeking ‘freedom’ for their country, “Omar” shows the implosive nature of youth to be free from their own demons. So “Omar” is not a political statement, it’s a statement of the self: know thyself.

The story is about three young adults—in their early twenties, maybe younger: Omar (Adam Bakri), Amjad (Samer Bisharat), and Tarek (Iyad Hoorani). They are Palestinians living in the West Bank. A wall separates Israel from Palestine. Omar, the protagonist, tries to scale to the top of wall every day only to come back down as an ear-piercing shot is heard close by, always. Presumably the Israeli soldiers shooting at him don’t want to kill Omar--it’s always a warning shot: Don’t climb up the wall. He climbs anyway.

The three youths have grown up hating Israel and the Israelis. What they know about Israel is as remote as looking at a random Israeli soldier through the crosshairs of a rifle they plan to use and kill. And they kill. At that moment the innocence of each one of the young men is lost forever.

As justice for the murder of the soldier must be served, enter Agent Rami, played brilliantly by Waleed Zuaiter.

Somewhere in the storyline there is a love story going on, too. Nadia, played by Leem Lubany, is a young and beautiful woman, who is trying to make sense of the World around her. She’s the love interest of both Omar and Amjad.

The crime and the love triangle stretches Omar’s psychology thin between justice and loyalty. His great strength and agility of scaling the wall diminishes…unsure of what exactly he’s fighting for.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, July 15, 2014
By 
alexander Koutsoyannis (santa clara, ca United States) - See all my reviews
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Ponient...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good movie. If you're sensitive to the human condition, July 14, 2014
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This review is from: Omar (DVD)
Very good movie. If you're sensitive to the human condition, if you think about the Middle East in global terms; if you like films -or the idea of the films- such as the Bicycle Thief, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Boys in the Hood, or Stand by Me, -or plays like Romeo and Juliet- you'll like this. If you like James Bond movies, inert Bromances, or Exodus, I suspect this won't be for you. I found it deeply moving and enlarged my understanding of the beauty and the pathos of the human condition.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent film. The story and actors are real, July 7, 2014
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This review is from: Omar (Subtitled) (Amazon Instant Video)
Excellent film. The story and actors are real. The American audience deserves to see more movies like this one to be shown in the US.
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Omar (Subtitled)
Omar (Subtitled) by Hany Abu-Assad
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