Arab cinephiles will have three regional films to cheer for when the 86th Academy Awards, the film industry’s highest honors, opens Sunday at a ceremony in Hollywood.

Palestinian film “Omar,” directed by Hany Abu Assad, will compete against “The Hunt,” Italy’s “The Great Beauty,” Belgium’s “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” and Cambodia’s

“The Missing Picture” for the best foreign-language Oscar on March 2 in Los Angeles.

The film tells the story of a Palestinian man named Omar who was arrested and beaten after an Israeli soldier was shot dead. Omar is told that he would be released only if he helps capturing the person who killed the soldier.

A scene from the Palestinian film “Omar’”

It was previously screened at Cannes Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival and won the best Director and Best Film as part of the best Arabic Feature category at the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) last December.

Raya Abirashed (photo courtesy: dubaifilmfest.com)

Raya Abirached, senior MBC Producer and Presenter based in London, told Al Arabiya News: “For Hany Abu Assaad’s Omar, the nomination was a challenge in itself; this is the strongest foreign film nomination line-up in many years and Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza is a clear favorite this year whereas.”

“Eight years ago when Hany was nominated for Paradise Now, the clear favorite was him. So, just like back in 2006, anything can happen. But it would be a big beautiful surprise if he won,” she added.

MBC 2, a sister channel of Al Arabiya News Channel, will be having special coverage for this year’s Academy Awards.

“The Square”

Egyptian film “The Square” –directed by Jehane Noujaim and produced by Karim Amer – will compete in the Documentary Feature category.

Many Egyptians have not seen yet the hard-hitting film that chronicles the country’s 2011 revolution. It has faced problems with the country’s censorship authorities and has not been shown in festivals or theaters there.

“It’s a kind of politics disguised in bureaucracy,” said Karim Amer, the film’s producer, told the Associated Press.

Ahmed Awad, undersecretary to the Minister of Culture and head of censorship, told The Associated Press that the film has not been banned in Egypt for any political reasons. He said it was not shown because the film’s producers did not file the proper paperwork. He called the filmmakers’ accusations of repression “propaganda” designed to attract more attention.

“I am very happy about the Oscars, because it’s a very high level of art,” Awad said. “We are not against the film, but there are laws. I can’t make exceptions.”

Noujaim said that the team submitted the film to censorship authorities in September and received verbal permission to show it at a festival. But, she explained, the film never received an official letter to that effect.

Joe Fahim, an Egyptian film curator and critic, said the film is not an artistic masterpiece, but he believes it’s an important film for Egyptian audiences because it can serve as a record of the country’s political upheaval.

“It’s a reminder of the turbulent history of the past three years,” Fahim told Associated Press.

Abirached told Al Arabiya News that “The Square has a strong chance to win” this year.

“They won the Sundance audience award, the Toronto People’s Choice award and the Director’s Guild Award for Jehane Noujeim, all of which are big prestigious prizes indicative of a possible win,” she said.

“The competition is very tough in their category. The Act Of Killing and 20Feet from Stardom are both in the way of The Square winning,” Abirached added… see more

source: Alarabiya. net