OMAR Movie Trailer
"Omar" starts with the main character putting his life on the line by climbing over the separation wall between Nablus in the West Bank and Palestinian neighborhoods in Israel to see the love of his life, Nadia. The same challenges of getting in and around the West Bank and Gaza Strip also limit production of films.
"The issue is getting permits and moving freely across the country. If you want to go and film in Jaffa, maybe you can’t because (Israeli authorities) do not allow you because you’re not from there," Emile Andre, an actor at the Ashtar Theatre in Ramallah, told Al Jazeera. “Or even if you wanted to film in Jerusalem, you can’t because of a checkpoint or some kind of security threat they say you might raise.”
Andre added that the struggling arts industry goes beyond film as aspiring actors look for opportunities in other countries. Because checkpoints and separation walls make traveling difficult even within the West Bank, theaters and cinemas lack access to populations outside major cities.
"Omar" overcame those challenges, and the Academy Awards took notice. Waleed Zuaiter, who plays the Israeli agent in "Omar," said he believes "the Oscars are probably the most authentic and fair in terms of their assessment of films."
But if his assessment is correct, why have Palestinian films been nominated only in the last few years?
Films from the Palestinian territories — without defined borders and under Israeli occupation — have stirred controversy at the Academy Awards for more than a decade.
“Divine Intervention,” by Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, was filmed in Israel and France but was reportedly not considered by Oscar’s foreign language film selection committee because Palestine has yet to exist as a sovereign state.
Motion Picture Academy executive director Bruce Davis told “Divine Intervention” co-producer Humbert Balsan that the film was not eligible for consideration in the 2003 foreign language film category because the Palestinian territories were not formally recognized by the United Nations, ABC News reported. In the past, the Academy Awards had considered entries from places like Puerto Rico and Hong Kong, which are also not recognized as nations by the United Nations. The Palestinian territories have had U.N. observer status as an “entity” since 1974 and is recognized by more than 100 nations.
Years later, the selection committee made an exception for Palestinian films, with the selection of “Paradise Now.” However, reportedly caving to Israeli pressure, the Academy Awards refused to label the film as from “Palestine.”
Instead, it was labeled from the “Palestinian territories.” Abu-Assad’s identity brought controversy to the film’s submission as Palestinian because, though he identifies as a Palestinian, he holds two passports: Israeli and Belgian. In addition, the film’s funding came from European, not Palestinians sponsors.
“5 Broken Cameras,” an Oscar-nominated documentary about a Palestinian village’s nonviolent struggle against Israeli settlements faced similar controversy in 2013 because it was co-produced and co-directed by an Israeli, Guy Davidi.
"Omar," however, has been able to avoid some of the challenges of its predecessors. In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to upgrade the Palestinian territories from an observer entity to a nonmember observer state. The Academy Awards followed suit, labeling "Omar" a film from "Palestine."
The $2 million film was funded almost entirely by private Palestinian investors (with some support from Enjazz Fund in the United Arab Emirates), it was directed by a Palestinian citizen of Israel, the actors are Palestinian, and it was filmed in the Palestinian city of Nablus and in Nazareth.
Just hold on and we’ll be together.