Morocco has selected actor/director Roschdy Zem's drama/thriller Omar m'a tuer (aka Omar Killed Me) as its entry for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar category.
I profiled the film back in June; as a refresher, it's based on the real-life trial of Moroccan gardener, Omar Raddad, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the alleged murder of his employer, a wealthy white French widow, found stabbed to death in her house in June 1991 in the French Riviera. On the walls of the woman's basement, written in her blood where the words Omar m'a tuer ("Omar Killed Me"), hence the film's title.
Initially, from the POV of the police investigating the crime scene, it seemed like a clear-cut case, but Omar's guilt was put in some doubt after no other evidence of his involvement in the crime (no forensic evidence, motive nor witnesses), was found.
After being sentenced to 18 years in prison, Omar's lawyer felt his client got an unfair shake courtesy of the French legal system, stating that the Omar's "foreigner" status as a North African was a factor in the court's decision, even though there was so little evidence against him, save for the writing on the wall in blood.
The case caught the nation's attention, leading to several organisations offering their support,other lawyers and judges criticizing the verdict, and more, putting the French criminal justice system under a microscope.
And eventually the then French President granted Omar a partial pardon in 1996.
"It’s not about settling scores or revising history," insisted Zem (who co-wrote the film with Olivier Gorce). "I just felt a desire to tell this tragically extraordinary story. What interested me was the experience of this young immigrant, who understood and spoke French badly, who was crushed by a judicial machine and caught up in a hellish media spiral because of a dramatically staged crime," said director Zem.
The 6.4 Million Euro ($9.2 million) project, which stars several north African actors (mostly from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria), and is produced by French Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb (a name we've mentioned a few times on S&A) was released today in France over the summer, courtesy of Mars Distribution (the same company handling the slavery/time travel flick I've written about a couple of times already); reviews from local critics have been strong.
Will it travel? Maybe... maybe not. An Oscar nom certainly would assist.
A teaser trailer follows below (sorry, it's all in French with no subtitles):