Making OMAR

Wed Sep 11,2013

The second edition of DIFF way back in 2005 opened with a gala screening of Hany Abu Assad’s Academy Award-nominated Paradise Now, a moving film about two Palestinian suicide bombers that would go on to win the Golden Globe for best foreign language film a couple of months later. Eight years on and Hany’s latest feature Omar is generating the sort of praise that could well see it emulate this success. Having premiered in Cannes, this noir psychological thriller set in the West Bank is now playing in Toronto. And it was made with help from DIFF’s Enjaaz post-production fund. We caught up with Hany in his hometown of Nazareth as he packed for his trip to Canada.

We understand you’re away for some time, where else are you travelling?
Yes, I’m making a tour with the movie. After Toronto, I’m in France for two weeks, then Holland for one week, a weekend in Germany for the Hamburg Film Festival, to Switzerland, to Belgium, to the New York Film Festival in October, and then to Los Angeles to promote the movie. It’s a long trip.

Omar received a standing ovation in Cannes, where it also won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. Were you expecting such a reaction?
I don’t expect anything. But I did hope that it would be well received and my hope came through. The most important thing for me was for the audience to invest emotionally in the characters, like they were involved. And I felt that was the case.

After a brief spell in Hollywood, you’ve now returned to Nazareth. Is this now your base for filmmaking?
For sure, it’s my hometown. Let’s say my ambition was to create an environment in the city from which we can constantly make movies, and we are doing that. We are still far from calling ourselves an industry, but it’s rising.

How vital was DIFF’s Enjaaz fund in making Omar
It was actually crucial, because without it we couldn’t close the financing. It came in at a very early stage, in the pre-production. . It helped get the movie made.

This year is the 10th anniversary of DIFF. How important has the festival become for filmmakers such as yourself?
I can’t say how much the festival is important to others, but I know how important it is to me. It was where I came in 2005 with Paradise Now. I opened the festival.

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