EXCLUSIVE: Cannes Un Certain Regard selection sold by The Match Factory.
French distributor Pretty Pictures has acquired Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar from The Match Factory ahead of its premiere in Un Certain Regard.
The picture revolves around three Palestinian childhood friends, including the titular Omar, and a young woman who are torn apart in their fight for freedom.
Adam Bakri, son of respected actor and director Mohammed Bakri, plays the central character of Omar, a sensitive baker who regularly dodges Israeli surveillance to cross the separation wall to see his secret love Nadia.
When Omar is arrested by military police on suspicion of committing a deadly attack against Israel, longtime friendships and his love for Nadia are put to the test.
Omar marks Abu-Assad’s first feature on home soil since his 2005 Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated Paradise Now, about the final days of young suicide bomber before attacking a bus in Tel Aviv.
Pretty Pictures president James Velaise negotiated the deal with The Match Factory head of sales Brigitte Suárez.
“Omar shows great dramatic progression with a very surprising ending. It’s a beautiful portrait of Palestine and the country’s combat for freedom,” said Velaise.
“We could not be more delighted than to have found another great film at The Match Factory. It is also wonderful to see such talent coming out of the Middle East,” he added.
The deal follows Pretty Pictures’ successful release in France of Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda, another acquisition from The Match Factory last year.
According to Rentrak data for the French box office week beginning April 24, Wajdja had racked up 457,190 entries in France in the 12 weeks following its release on February 6 and was still showing in some 35 locations across the country.
Pretty Pictures,which opened the film on 86 screens, mounted an impressive media campaign in support of Wadjda, partnering with Le Monde newspaper, radio station France Culture, news website Rue 89 and cultural magazines Télérama and Causette to help with its promotion.
“After the overwhelming success of Wajdja in France, we are delighted to strengthen our relationship further with Pretty Pictures,” said The Match Factory’s Suárez. “With their skill and knowledge, they will do a great job with Omar, a film sensitively portraying an impossible love story in the middle of the harsh realities in this region.”
Shot in the West Bank and the Abu-Assad’s home city of Nazareth, the biggest Arab city within Israel’s disputed borders, Omar is billed as the first feature fully financed by the Palestinian film community.
It was produced by David Gerson and Waleed Zuaiter’s newly formed Palestinian-American production company ZBros LLC with the backing of Palestinian investors. It also received support from the Dubai International Film Festival’s Enjaaz post-production fund.