Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Blog

By: Margaret Lowry

Summer 2013 Intern

"Omar,” the new film from Palestinian writer and director Hany Abu-Assad (“Paradise Now”) won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section this past weekend at the Cannes Film Festival. The film follows the experiences of its titular character, a young freedom fighter kept away from his secret love Nadia by separation barriers. When an act of violence leads to his arrest, Omar must choose between protecting his friends and saving himself. At its premier, “Omar” received a standing ovation from the jury, high praise from a film festival where audiences have been known to boo films.

The film is the first to be almost entirely funded by private Palestinian investors. Waleed Zuaiter, a Palestinian American actor, who plays Agent Rami in the film, spearheaded the search for funding. Zuaiter became a producer for the film after reading the script and sharing with Abu-Assad the hope for creating a fully Palestinian-funded film. In an interview with Variety, Zuaiter discussed the driving goal behind their fundraising efforts: “Hany and I had a vision to help boost the local Palestinian film industry and to create jobs... We wanted to create somewhat of an economy there, to generate something.” The team managed to raise the $2 million dollars required for the production with the help of Zuaiter’s brothers, both prominent Palestinian businessmen. 95% of the funding came directly from Palestinian business community, with the remaining five percent coming from Enjaaz, the post-production fund of the Dubai International Film Festival.

The realization of a Palestinian-funded film is an encouraging sign for the burgeoning Palestinian film industry. The majority of Palestinian films have to reach abroad to find investors, relying on foreign government funds or private investors. In the case of “Condom Lead,” the first Palestinian short film ever submitted to the festival, the filmmakers Ahmed and Mohamed Abu Nasser, the initial funds came largely out of the directors’ own resources.  

You can watch an excerpt from the film here.

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