Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Omar

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Reviews - Omar


Reviewed By Chris Coombes

When Omar, last week's Keswick Film Club offering, was introduced it was suggested that the plot was Shakespearean. I would agree with that – it had all the essential ingredients of a great tragedy. It was also powerful, shocking and difficult to watch – sometimes because of its brutality and sometimes because of the sheer tension that was so brilliantly built throughout the film.

In spite of the shock and the tension I was very pleased that once again the film club had come up with the goods in terms of bringing us a film that we'd be unlikely to see otherwise and which was extremely thought provoking. It is directed by Hany Abu-Assad and was nominated for best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

The story centres on Omar (Adam Bakri) who is a Palestinian baker. He regularly climbs over the separation wall to meet up with Nadja (Leem Lubany) who he is hoping to marry. By night he risks his life to attack the Israeli military with his childhood friends Tarek (Eyad Hourani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat). He is arrested after the killing of an Israeli soldier and tricked into an admission of guilt by association and (it seems) agrees to work as an informant.

As we watch we know from the instant that Omar takes part in the killing that his life is irrevocably changed and there is very little possibility of a way out for him. He is intensely focused on both his freedom fighter/terrorist existence and his love for Nadia and as the story progresses these two elements intertwine with tragic consequences. As we watch we are faced, as is Omar himself, with having to try to work out where truth lies, who can be trusted. He alone seems to understand loyalty and how to stay true to a cause. We hope that he will find a way out of his predicament and be allowed to live the normal life he longs for with Nadia, a young student who also has no means of knowing who to believe. At the same time we know that for these two normal life is never going to happen. We watch as people believe the unbelievable and hopes and dreams fall apart.

There are some wonderfully convincing performances, particularly from Omar's Israeli handler (Waleed F. Zuaiter) whose need for Omar to collaborate becomes his own undoing. Claustrophobic alleyways are used to great effect when Omar and others are trying to escape capture. Apart from rare and intriguing glimpses into the domestic lives of the characters what we see are desperate people in a desperate landscape that is dwarfed by the wall, and we are reminded once more of what so many people are made to deal with on a daily basis – simply because of where they happen to have been born.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

Since then, the club has won Film Society Of The Year and awards for Best Programme four times and Best Website twice.

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