A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Omar (Hany Abu-Assad, 2013)

Omar is an involving thriller that earned an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film, and currently has a 90 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But a few critics think it goes too far in depicting its Palestinian characters as good guys and the Israelis as villains -- the word "agitprop" has been used. Which goes to show once again that art and politics are uneasy, if necessary, companions. The film was made with Palestinian money, and the country submitting it for the Oscar was Palestine (whose designation as a country itself stirs controversy), but it was filmed in the Israeli city of Nazareth as well as in the West Bank city of Nablus. Omar (Adam Bakri) is a young man who, after being tormented by Israeli soldiers, joins with his friends Tarek (Eyad Hourani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat) in retaliation. They sneak up on an Israeli encampment and Amjad (though reluctantly) shoots one of the soldiers. When Omar is captured and tortured, he is tricked by an Israeli officer, Rami (Waleed Zuaiter), posing as a Palestinian, into saying "I will never confess," which the military courts recognize as tantamount to a confession. But Rami persuades Omar to take a deal: He can go free if he will work to lead them to Tarek, whom they identify as the leader of the group. What follows is a complex story of betrayal and retribution, complicated by Omar's love for Tarek's sister Nadia (Leem Lubany). Omar stays just shy of sinking into pure melodrama, thanks to director Abu-Assad's screenplay, his well-handled action sequences of the pursuit of Omar through the narrow streets and across the rooftops of Nazareth, and some effective performances by attractive young actors like Bakri and Lubany. The glimpses of a culture too often seen through the lens of geopolitics also strengthen the film. The film may be politically biased, but it's also a tale of the strong vs. the weak, which may be why so many of us can ignore the complexities of the actuality underlying it.