“Omar” has something for everyone. The film is part coming-of-age romance, part thriller packed with chase scenes reminiscent of big-budget Hollywood action flicks and more plot twists than a Dan Brown novel. It’s so compelling that if studying international conflicts isn’t your thing, you may not even notice until the film’s end that you’ve been learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for over an hour and a half.
“Omar,” which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, tells the story of a young man living in the West Bank named Omar. In order to visit his friends Tarek and Amjad, he regularly climbs the West Bank’s massive separation wall, sometimes having to dodge bullets in the process. The wall was built to separate Israelis and Palestinians, but also ended up separating Palestinians from each other. Omar is in love with Nadia, Tarek’s younger sister, and hopes to marry her.
After Omar accompanies Tarek and Amjad to shoot and kill an Israeli soldier, his life is put in jeopardy. Although Amjad was the one who fired the weapon, Omar is captured the next day and mercilessly tortured. In order to escape prison, he convinces his captor that he is willing to become an informant. Further complicating matters, Omar, Tarek and Amjad suspect that Omar was caught because of a traitor in their midst who could be anyone, including one of the three friends.
Despite taking place in circumstances that are far from pleasant, “Omar” often shows West Bank residents joking around and engaging in friendly conversation, illustrating that they are trying to live as much of a normal life as possible. Omar and Nadia’s playful romance is typical of many young couples in love.
This reviewer highly recommends catching this extraordinary film. A second screening, again put on as a collaboration between Macalester Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (Mac SUPER) and J Street U, will take place on Tuesday, April 21 at 12 p.m. in the Harmon Room.