The Palestinian film ‘Omar’ revolves around the life of the eponymous young Palestinian baker. Omar is in love with Nadia, his friend’s sister. He plans to ask for her hand in marriage and live a peaceful life with her. However, his dates to meet Nadia are dangerous, as he has to climb the separation wall dividing Palestine to meet her on the other side of the barrier. He often gets beaten up by Israeli patrolling forces or shot at by guards.
The film has a rustic aesthetic quintessential to all countries surrounding the Mediterranean. The sun makes every object, living or inanimate, a painter`s dream. But this is where the beauty ends. The world in which the Israelis and the Palestinians live is a complex maze of constructed truths. The lives of these people, fighting over land, is difficult. Both sides are trying hard to survive the existential angst. Both sides are looking for ways to control the other just to earn a good night`s sleep.
Their struggle begins with the poetic allure of resistance, which draws many young Palestinians. However, they soon discover that revolution, oppression, and freedom are not black and white concepts leading to dystopia or utopia. In this world, reality is mediated through a system created by the dead. The similarity of their lives from opposite sides of the border wall, and a shared love of American pop culture, unite opposing factions and adversaries from within. Yet they are independent in their pursuits to lessen the collective anxiety.
Both sides want a conflict that is delineated by a clear line. But those involved in the conflict know that this is far from possible.
Omar and Nadia, madly in love, are forced to bypass several obstacles just to communicate a few words. In rare moments when they are together, they struggle with the physical tension between them and the fear of stigma should something happen. The fear is so overwhelming that Omar won`t even tell his childhood friend Amjad about his desires for Nadia. He tolerates Amjad bragging about Nadia being in love with him, and claiming Nadia has written love letters to him. Omar stays quiet.
In this world, no one shares anything, not even their distrust. Life-long friends frisk each other before meeting. Israeli intelligence investigator Rami learns Arabic to native proficiency, only to find himself feeling sorry, if not responsible, for young Palestinians caught in a difficult position. Rami knows that Omar is being deceived by one of his friends. He also knows about Omar`s affection for Nadia, and despite being in a troubled marriage, still believes in the innocence of young love.
The duality here is marked by a longing for innocence which is collectively shared. Both sides want a conflict that is delineated by a clear line. But those involved in the conflict know that this is far from possible. They also know that there is no truth, just secrets. Some of those secrets are contrived while others are collected to be used later in psychological warfare.
And yet, the film`s cinematography, costumes, and colour grading are crisp and beautiful. The film’s sound design is clean and the locations are picturesque. Even the jail cells, the insects, and the investigation rooms are aesthetically lit, sometimes in chiaroscuro. All of this is developed over layers of underlying grey.
‘Omar’ was written and directed by Hany Abu-Assad and released in 2013.