Interviewed by Yasmine Hassan, TIM Associate Features Editor
What was your experience like filming Omar in the West Bank and covering one of history’s most controversial conflicts? Was it easy filming there or did you have trouble getting permission from Israel for your movie?
No, this time wasn’t hard at all for me to film for a very simple reason. If they give me trouble, when everyone will ask me how the shoot went, I will tell them that there were problems and that I wasn’t given permission. Now, I don’t need to tell these stories, they are happy and I am happy as well. in comparison, Paradise Now was an extremely difficult shoot, we had a lot of trouble.
What was your reaction when you found out that Omar was nominated for an Oscar? What does this nomination mean for Palestinians and the future of Palestine?
Three Arabs are nominated this year. It’s great year for us to be recognized and I’m happy for that.
Has there been any political backlash after the movie was screen for you seeing as the contents of Omar touch upon a very sensitive political situation?
No, it’s a movie, it’s a love story, it’s a story people find that is well done, when it’s a good story why should there be a clash?
How did the idea for Omar come up? Why did you decide to be the voice of the voiceless and how do you deal with the pressure of such a position?
The story came from a night that I wanted to do something very strong and I felt that I needed to take in my own experience. It is partly things that I lived during Paradise Now. I was all the time constantly paranoid, I felt that the Israeli army was spying on me, maybe it’s true or not but the idea that someone from your crew is spying on you is a terrible idea. Also the story is partly from stories I heard from friends or that I read in the newspaper, the ending specifically is from the newspaper. All these together make Omar alive, my personal experience and motivation, stories that I heard from friends and stories that I read.
What are you hoping your viewers will take away from the film? Is there an underlying message that you hope to give out to your viewers?
There is no particular message, I personally love movies that will engage me emotionally and rationally. After that it will make me think and keep the story. For me this is what I want because this is the story I love to watch and this is what I hope people will take away from my movies.
How did you choose these characters for the movie? Is there a personal story relating to theirs in the movie?
You want to put the story in a category, is it friendship or love? This is a love story and a political thriller. Nadia and Omar are the lovers. Tarek, Amjad and Omar are the political thriller characters. The three are the main characters, Tarek is the adventurous one who saw the war, Omar is a soldier who fought the war and Amjad earns from the war.