Directed by: Hany Abu-Assad
In Arabic and Hebrew, with English subtitles
OK — truth in reviewing — we will freely admit that we had a very difficult time in watching this film because we have long been a vocal supporter of Israel and Israeli issues, and watching this film (A Palestinian film that has been nominated for a Best foreign Language Oscar that portrays the Israeli occupation of the West Bank with Israel as the “bad guys”) is sort of like watching a WWII film that Pitches the Germans as the good guys and the Allied forces (especially the U.S.) as the villains.
That said; this is a very tense, gripping thriller about betrayal, suspected and real, in the Occupied Territories. Omar (Adam Bakri) is a Palestinian baker who routinely climbs over the separation wall to ostensibly meet up with his friends, Tarek (Hourani) and Amjad (Bisharat), but he really is looking for an excuse to meet with Tarek’s sister, Nadja (Lubany), whom he looks upon as his girlfriend. Omar and his friends fancy themselves as resistance fighters, and one night they head out and kill an Israeli soldier. Unfortunately, the next day he gets pinched, and winds up in prison, where he inadvertently admits to knowing something about the killing, which the guards leverage into getting him to collaborate with them against his friends.
Thus begins a dangerous game for Omar as he attempts to either play his Israeli handler, Rami (Zuaiter) or betray his cause (Omar walks a fine edge here, and the viewer is never quite sure which way he will turn). Still, according to Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad (the film is not so much a war story, but a love story; which is not to discount that the film is in fact a tense, gripping thriller about betrayal, trust, and life for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
The choices that Omar and his friends make, the reasons they make them, and how they live out their lives is horrifying, stressful, and so totally wrong on so many levels that it honestly hurts to watch this film, even though it really needs to be watched.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.