Trust in Love
Also about young love and about the crazy Wall and absurdities and checkpoint dislocations in Palestinians’ lives, Hany Abu-Assad’s 2002 Rana’s Wedding laughed with the frustrations. Three years later his bitterly titled Paradise Now depiction of “freedom fighter” or another man’s “terrorist” Tel Aviv suicide bombers raised hackles. Closer to the latter now is Omar, even if interest remains fixed on the human aspect in characters motivated to repellent violent acts.
By Skype after New York Film Festival press showing prior to U.S. première, the director-writer-producer mentioned a West Bank “paranoic society” that yet needs human presentation, realistically detailed but, more importantly, emotionally believable. This time, there had been no bureaucratic trouble during the eight-week location shooting, though short scenes on the top of the separation Wall were done on a fake set.
Reinforcing a contention that novice non-professionals can be less self-conscious and more transparent of their interior lives as reflected in outward gestures and faces, four of five central figures are first-timers, two of them in fact sixteen-year-old high school students. They play off with that requisite emotional believability against experienced Palestinian-American Waleed F. Zuaiter’s ruthlessly tough but harried family man Israeli secret police agent Rami.
The ninety-six-minute love story/non-political “ticking-clock political thriller” indicates the web in which occupiers as well as bewildered occupied in the Territories are enmeshed. Anyone can be blackmailed, coerced in one way or another into betraying or informing, which, from a friend’s true experience, was the germ of Abu-Assad’s screen treatment. How, that is, do theoretically impersonal national-state priorities override to impinge on the normal facts of life, on friendship and love and on the trust that must underpin relationships? The response to such pressure, or at least the resolution here, implies a rising above the individual self in sacrifice so that, even if unaware, others enjoy the fruits of life. “Such is life in occupied Palestine.”
Bakery employee Omar (Adam Bakri) has since childhood been closest friends with more politicized Tarek Salaam (Eyad Hourani). One additional reason for courting his friend’s good graces is his love for the latter’s adorable schoolgirl sister Nadja (Leem Lubany), whom he risks the Wall to visit chastely and secretly, with whom he exchanges folded sweet billets-doux even when face to face, and whose hand he cannot steel up the courage to ask for in marriage.
Making a third with these two young men is Amjad Haleem (Samer Bisharat), younger than they, less confident though more of a jokester, and a guardian of his seven sisters whose plain faces and lack of suitors he comically bewails. Militant Tarek pushes them to a deadly act from which there is no going back. Amjad is the bullied actual triggerman, but it is Omar who is arrested and graphically tortured for names and other information.
Tricked, then cajoled by no-nonsense Agent Rami, Omar is set free to trace and reveal his companion “terrorist’s” whereabouts. Rumors fly when the released man is seen on the streets, then detained a second time and yet again put at liberty, as even staunch Radja grows suspicious and confused about loyalty and love, about their people and their cause. “I never knew love could cause such pain.” Amjad behaves in a questionable manner around her, but Tarak claims to have found the sole informer in Hassam.
In flawless Arabic, Israeli agent Rami had warned of a “little birdie” of entrapment but done exactly that to Omar. All are trapped in some way when trust crumbles into doubt about those nearest and dearest and, in the end, can best or only be restored through pure selflessness.
(Released by Adopt Films; not rated by MPAA.)