Abu-Assad’s Omar Borders on Perfection

Omar is a terrific and thrilling love story that is both thought-provoking and encapsulating throughout. However, labeling it as a romance is far from fair to the genius of the movie; Omar explores the relationships between love, betrayal, social acceptance, and borders in a tense Israel-Palestine setting. An authentic plot and powerful protagonist and antagonist development strengthen the central idea of the consequences of borders that Director Hany Abu-Assad masterfully employs, making Omar a classic film worth repeated viewings.

The plot centers around the love between Omar (Adam Bakri), whose home is in Palestine, and Nadia (Leem Lubany), who resides in Israel. Though, the excitement in the movie is generated from the actions of Omar, Tarek (Eyad Hourani), and Amjad (Samer Bisharat). The three freedom fighters embark on a successful mission in which they shoot and kill an Israeli soldier. Tarek and Amjad are able to escape, but Omar is not as fortunate. After being tricked by Agent Rami (Waleed Zuaiter), Omar is forced to act as an informant; however, he has other plans. When a failed attempt to ambush authorities goes south, Omar is taken in for a second time, only to be sent out once again. Omar tries to maintain his relationship with Nadia as he seeks the person that has been unfaithful to him and his cause. As loyalty and love are contrasted with betrayal and personal gain, the action in Omar – comprised of thrilling chases, emotional releases, and more – only increases.

Abu-Assad utilizes his personal background to distinguish the plot and picture of Omar from similar action-packed movies, making it possible for the audience to grasp the truth and reality present in the movie. Though born in Israel, Abu-Assad self-identifies as a Palestinian. Furthermore, he makes it a priority that most of the film is shot in Palestine, home to all the actors. The inside perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian relationship adds to the ethos of the movie and creates an authenticity that remains for the duration of the turmoil of events in Omar that otherwise would be hard to believe.

Additionally, Abu-Assad is able to elevate the protagonist and antagonist from the boring stereotypes portrayed in most dramatic romances, which deflects the attention from the rather dull supporting cast (namely Tarek and Nadia) that fail to bring any depth to the film. Omar, the protagonist, is a young and handsome Palestinian baker. Although Omar’s amour, Nadia, is a two-dimensional character whose sole purpose is to fit perfectly in the movie, his continuously evolving interactions with her are worth analyzing.

In any other setting besides the one they were born into, Omar and Nadia would have very few problems marrying and living the rest of their happy lives together. Instead, they find themselves separated by an isolation wall, one that serves as a testament to the power of borders and its effect on the deterioration of personal relations. The emotional divide caused by the physical wall between Omar and Nadia ameliorates as the film progresses, eventually resulting in Nadia’s distrust of Omar that commences the disintegration of their relationship. Abu-Assad’s Omar shows that even seemingly perfect bonds, such as the one Omar and Nadia share, are vulnerable to the lasting effects of borders.

Omar’s character is made further intricate by his role as a freedom fighter. His involvement in the killing of an unknown Israeli soldier is confusing when noting his truly admirable personality. The method of murder, use of a rifle from long distance, makes Omar, Tarek, and Amjad’s action even less justifiable. Rather than getting revenge on a specific person that represents everything they are fighting against, they kill a seemingly random solider. Still, it is important to recognize this comes at a time when suicide bombings and other acts of violence involving Israel and Palestine are sadly anything but rare, and the perpetrators of these actions are immediately labeled ‘terrorists’ by mass media without regard to their cause, motive, or background. One can argue that the root of actions committed by freedom fighters (or terrorists, depending on the audience) is the very border that was put up to protect against such violent acts. Of course, Abu-Assad’s purpose for this film is not to defend nor excuse people who commit acts similar to Omar’s, but to shine light on to why that action was taken in the first place.

The antagonist, Agent Rami, is similar to Omar in the sense that both of their downfalls involve societal impressions of themselves due to the respective borders that haunt them. To Omar and other freedom fighters, nothing symbolizes evil more than Israeli agents. Yet, although Omar is blinded by both the barrier separating the two countries and the looming prison walls, the audience is able to see a different side of Agent Rami, one that humanizes him and separates him from the stereotypical antagonist.

In multiple scenes, it is hard to understand how Agent Rami could be the antagonist, a hard and accomplishing feat for a director. His phone call with his family, in which he speaks a different language, symbolizes his two distinctive worlds – one outside the prison, the other contained within. When Agent Rami attempts to combine both worlds and conduct Israeli defensive business on the outside, he is no longer protected, and Omar takes this opportunity to reciprocate some of the pain he endured because of Agent Rami. The tragic endings for him and Omar result from the very border that is purposed with separating the two; Abu-Assad’s creation of this irony adds to the overall influence and excitement of the film.

The plot, made stronger by Abu-Assad’s past and personal experience, combined with a complex protagonist (Omar) and antagonist (Agent Rami), work well together to build the thematic depth in Omar and make Abu-Assad’s film deserving of the praise it has received. The consequences of borders are thoroughly examined in the film; however, Omar allows the audience to form their own analysis, leaving endless interpretations and likely cementing the movie in their thoughts for days to come. In short, Omar is a must-watch.


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