Omar @ The Ross

Omar (Adam Bakri)

Omar (Adam Bakri)

Palestine. Israel. Two cultures separated by conflict and war. We know the popular names: the Gaza Strip … the West Bank. Some say strife between these lands is deeply rooted in biblical history but here is what we all know: this socio-geo-political conflict seems endless.

Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad moves into the vein of everyday life within this discord in his riveting film Omar. Set in the West Bank, Abu-Assad tells the story of Omar (Adam Bakri), a young baker, who, along with his comrades Tarek (Eyad Hourani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat) form a group of Palestinian rebels who, in acts of defiance, scale the wall that divide the occupied territories. In Omar’s case, the wall cannot keep him from his love Nadia (Leem Lubany).

Omar jumps the wall to see his love, Nadia

Omar jumps the wall to see his love, Nadia

The film is lovely in its dramatization of camaraderie between friends Omar, Tarek, and Amjad, and the delicacy of love separated by clashes and disputes. Abu-Assad is careful to portray a generation of innocence caught in the legacy of war with no way out. Here is where the story turns brutal. After the rebels kill an Israeli soldier, Omar is the only one who is caught. In the hands of officials, he is tortured, and Abu-Assad holds nothing back in his portrayal of these scenes as well as Omar’s angst when presented with a deal. The director does not stop there. Days and nights are blanketed with distrust, deception, and betrayal. The story literally descends into a hellish nightmare, and Palestinian life, already compromised by circumstances that run an historical deep, proves more than stressful. Sadness aside, Abu-Assad patiently films the everyday of Palestinian life, breathing into every home, street, alleyway, countryside, and dialogue the ordinariness of people who manage to live and to be just like everyone else.

Omar and Nadia (Leem Lubany)

Omar and Nadia (Leem Lubany)

There are politics, yes, but the director refuses to strangle Omar with the usual suspects of bureaucracy, interrogation, and red tape. Instead, his major focus is on the characters who are brought to life so wonderfully by the actors, and their character interpretations are worth the price of the ticket!

Adam Bakri, especially, is to be applauded for his rich performance of Omar, a character whose hopes are torn asunder by battles fought over land that have yet to be resolved, and consequences of these battles inherited by his generation.

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Omar plays through March 20 at the Ross Arts Center in Lincoln.

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