x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Palestinian entry Omar gets Oscar nomination

Nominated for Best Foreign Film, the filmmaker Hany Abu-Asad's drama also opened the Dubai International Film Festival last year, where it won two Muhr Awards.

A scene from Omar, a film by Hany Abu Assad, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film.

CREDIT: ZBROS
A scene from Omar, a film by Hany Abu Assad, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. CREDIT: ZBROS

Oscar buzz stretched across the globe today as the Academy Awards nominations were announced from Beverly Hills, California.

There was sure to have been jubilation in Nazareth this evening at the news Palestinian director Hany Abu-Asad’s entry Omar had earned a nomination for Best Foreign Film. The story of a young Palestinian who plans to shoot an Israeli soldier with two friends, only to be caught and convinced by an Israeli spy to inform on them, was filmed in Nazareth with a Palestinian crew and funding.

Last year, Omar won a Cannes Special Jury Prize, and in December opened the Dubai International Film Festival, where it won two Muhr Awards.

While this is a milestone accomplishment in itself, the film is only Palestine’s second film to be nominated in the category. The first, Abu-Asad’s previous entry Paradise Now, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film in 2006.

The country’s most prolific director by far, Abu-Asad is familiar with the awards process. “I was there once, and I’m nervous because you know the process and the pressure and tension is big,” he told the Times of Israel late last year.

“On the other hand, I know it’s just one big casino. I wish I could close my eyes and just wake up and it’s finished.”

Elsewhere in the region, there were high hopes for Saudi Arabia’s first-ever entry Wadjda, also the first feature film to be shot entirely in the Kingdom, and the first directed by a Saudi woman (Haifaa Al Mansour). Similarly, the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, now screening in the UAE, was expected to fare better after winning awards at festivals from Cannes to Durban. However, both films were omitted from the shortlist.

So, too, was Bethlehem, an Israeli film with a surprisingly similar plot about the relationship between an Israeli military officer and a Palestinian informant.

Abu-Asad said he was surprised at the omission of Bethlehem from the revised shortlist. “I thought that both Omar and Bethlehem have a good chance, and I thought they would both on the list.”

Speaking of the Israeli production, he said: “I’m not happy with it politically, but politics shouldn’t decide whether a movie is good or not. I’m always saying: don’t judge my movie by politics, but how it was.”

• The 86th Academy Awards is on March 2.

halbustani@thenational.ae