I was so taken with my first viewing of Hany Abu-Assad‘s Omar, a Palestinian-produced thriller about betrayal and double-agenting in the West Bank, that I caught it again last night at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

It’s a taut, urgent, highly realistic thriller that squeezes its characters and viewers like a vise.

Omar is among the Academy’s short-listed Best Foreign Language Feature contenders, and with my personal favorites, Asghar Farhadi‘s The Past and Yuval Adler‘s Bethlehem (which is quite similar to Abu-Assad’s film) out of the running, I guess I’m an Omar guy at this stage.

Omar costars Waleed_Zuaiter (l.) and Adam Bakri (r.) following last night’s screening at Palm Spring Int’l Film Festival

I’m a serious admirer of the two leads, Adam Bakri, who plays the titular character, a Palestinian youth whose decision to take part in an assassination with two friends seals his fare, and Waleed Zuaiter, an Israeli agent who presses Omar into his service as an informer.

Bakri and Zuaiter did a q & an after last night’s screening.

Bakri, probably 21 or 22, is making his feature film debut with Omar. He’s currently living stateside (either LA or NY). He was wearing a really handsome military-styled dark blue jacket, and so I asked him where he got it. Zara at the Grove, he said, so maybe he’s living here.

From Jay Weissberg‘s Variety review, filed during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival: “As he did with Paradise Now, Abu-Assad refuses to demonize characters for their poor choices. Only too aware of the crushing toll of the Occupation on Palestinians, he shows men (the film is male-centric) making tragic, often self-destructive decisions as a result of an inescapable environment of degradation and violence.

“With Omar he’s finessed the profile, depicting how the weaknesses that make us human, especially love, can lead, in such a place, to acts of betrayal. It’s as if he’s taken thematic elements from Westerns and film noir, using the fight for dignity and an atmosphere of doubt to explain rather than excuse heinous actions. Viewers with a firm moral compass, who see killing as an act always to be condemned, won’t need Omar to tell them what’s right and wrong.”