Oscar-nominated ‘Omar,’ a Palestinian love story?

The Oscar-nominated film Omar by Hany Abu-Assad has been marketed to Western audiences as a love story.

Advertisements for the movie often reflect this simple narrative by showing an intimate moment between the lead character Omar and his love interest Nadja (played by Arab Israeli actors Adam Bakri and Leem Lubany).

In one version, the innocent, loving couple gazes longingly at each other.

In a racier version, the couple kisses deeply.

Omar poster featuring an adoring couple.
Omar poster kiss
Omar poster markets a love story with the focus on an adoring couple.

Where Palestinians are the target audience, however, the film has a much darker and political presentation as signified by the following photo I took while in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank in November 2013:

Omar in West Bank
This ominous Omar billboard in a Palestinian Authority-controlled area of the West Bank shows the character Omar as a terrorist in his prison uniform. The billboard is covered with posters of real-life terrorists released from prison. (Photo Credit: Danielle Avel)

In this grim advertisement, the character Omar is shown in prison garb after his arrest for committing an act of terrorism. He appears battered and beaten with a sinister, ominous look. There is no hint of a charming, innocent boy in love. A woman looms in the background, more of an afterthought, and it isn’t clear that this woman is his sweetheart – a far cry from the romantic couple marketed to Western audiences.

Not only is the presentation of Omar far more aggressive and political for Palestinian viewers, but the billboard is also plastered with posters of actual terrorists freed as part of recent American-sponsored diplomacy.  This type of poster blankets the West Bank and can be found on places such as cars, homes, stores, and mosques.

Terrorist poster glued to the Omar billboard. Images clockwise from top are of Issa Abed Rabbo, Rizq Salah, Khaled Al-Azraq – all Palestinians convicted of killing innocent Israelis. (Photo credit: Danielle Avel)

Posters celebrating terrorists like the ones glued to the Omar advertisement may be more overt than the official billboard itself, but the meaning is the same: in Palestinian society, terrorists are heroes. The fictional terrorist Omar is celebrated just as real-life murderers are celebrated.

The marketing of Omar confirms, yet again, that Palestinians present their story as that of sweet, innocent victims to the outside world, while in their own society embrace and promote violence. When a movie such as Omar crosses over from Palestinian propaganda to mainstream entertainment, audiences should recognize that what Palestinians sell as a love story also includes a political agenda that glorifies terrorists, murder, and death.

Danielle Avel can be reached through her website www.DanielleAvel.com and on Twitter and Facebook.

© 2014 by Danielle Avel.  All rights reserved.

About the Author
Danielle Avel is a photojournalist and investigative researcher who has worked in the financial industry and for the Investigative Project on Terrorism. She calls New York City her home and can often be spotted on long walks with a camera in hand and her little dog Darwin in tow.
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