Omar, Hany Abu-Assad’s film about a young West Bank Palestinian, received a nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar when the candidates were announced in a ceremony in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Nazareth-born Abu-Assad’s previous film, Paradise Now, about two would-be suicide bombers, received a Best Foreign Language Film nomination in 2006 but did not win.
Omar, the story of a Palestinian involved in the murder of an Israeli soldier who is pressured to become a collaborator, was made without support from any Israeli film funds.
Although Abu-Assad lives in Israel and parts of the movie were filmed in Israel, the director was adamant that the film be considered the official selection of “Palestine.”
In the other major categories, American Hustle and Gravity led the nominees with 10 nominations apiece. Right behind was 12 Years a Slave with nine, while The Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska and Captain Phillips received six each.
There can be between five and 10 Best Picture nominees, and this year there are nine: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street.
The other nominees this year in the Best Foreign Language Film category were The Broken Circle Breakdown from Belgium, a romantic melodrama about a free-spirited couple coping when their child gets ill; The Great Beauty from Italy, about a playboy who reconsiders his life when he turns 65, which won a Golden Globe award earlier this week; The Hunt from Denmark, the story of a lonely teacher facing a crisis; and The Missing Picture, the first ever-nominee from Cambodia, which is a docudrama about the slaughter during the Pol Pot years.
Among other firsts were a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Barkhad Abdi, who plays the leader of the Somali pirates who kidnap Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, and is the first Somali-born actor to be nominated.
It was his first film role. Also nominated for her first movie role is Lupita Nyong’o, who received a Best Supporting Actress nod for 12 Years a Slave.
Nyong’o was born in Mexico, raised in Kenya and trained at Yale University.
For the first time in several years, no Israeli film has received a nomination, although Israeli films have received seven nominations in the past six years in the Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary and Best Documentary short categories.
Israel’s single win was for the Best Documentary Short, Strangers No More in 2010.
Omar has a similar plot to Bethlehem, the movie that was Israel’s candidate for the Oscar this year, but Bethlehem did not make the Oscar shortlist.
The Oscar winners are to be announced in a televised ceremony on March 2.