You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Omar Killed Me

The story is the star in "Omar Killed Me," a level-headed but gripping adaptation of the true events involving a Moroccan gardener accused of murdering his wealthy employer on the French Riviera in 1991.

With: Sami Bouajila, Denis Podalydes, Maurice Benichou, Salome Stevenin, Nozha Khouadra. (French, Moroccan Arabic dialogue)

The story is the star in “Omar Killed Me,” a level-headed but gripping adaptation of the true events involving a Moroccan gardener accused of murdering his wealthy employer on the French Riviera in 1991. One of Gaul’s most versatile actors, Sami Bouajila, adds another deeply felt turn to his resume in this classically assembled crime-and-courtroom drama from Bouajila’s “Outside the Law” co-star, Roschdy Zem. Late June release sold more than half a million tickets in France, and will have its international preem at Toronto, where buyers of classy sociopolitical fare should take note.

French title literally translates as “Omar Has Kill Me,” which was written in clearly legible script, using the blood and finger of the victim, on the inside of the door of the basement where the old lady was murdered. Since the door was locked, it was entirely dark inside and the woman, who was far from illiterate, was gushing blood from multiple wounds, it is unlikely she would ungrammatically point out her killer in her last moments.

But racial and class prejudice and the need for a victim trumped these concerns, and her gardener, Omar Raddad (Bouajila), was found guilty of the crime, despite offering a partially verifiable alibi.

Though the pic is inspired by the real case, which was one of the biggest media events in the early 1990s in France, its approach to the story is fictional, since the investigating journo, Pierre-Emmanuel Vaugrenard (Denis Podalydes), doesn’t actually exist.

Zem co-wrote the screenplay with screenwriters Olivier Gorce and Olivier Lorelle (the latter also a producer) and scribe-producer Rachid Bouchareb, who, as a director, has worked extensively with both Zem and Bouajila (“Days of Glory,” “Outside the Law”).

Technically as well as in terms of writing and mise-en-scene, pic’s approach is sober but solid, starting with Raddad’s deposition, via an interpreter, in 1994, before looking at how he got to that point and what happened after his imprisonment. Editor Monica Coleman nimbly switches between the different storylines and periods.

Punching holes into the theories of the police and the accusers are Vaugrenard, who is aided by a sprightly assistant (Salome Stevenin), and Raddad’s cunningly intelligent lawyer, Maitre Verges (Maurice Benichou), one of France’s most famous defense lawyers (his work was examined in Barbet Schroeder docu “Terror’s Advocate”).

Along the way, the pic sheds light on how a simple guilty or not guilty verdict can become clouded by prejudice, procedural mistakes and subsequent cover-ups. Part of the story’s fascination lies in the fact it doesn’t tell the tale of a clearly innocent man struggling against mighty odds, but rather an ugly true story fraught with racism, class problems and prejudice, and other assorted societal ills.

Bouajila’s nuanced, deeply humanistic perf — which neatly balances innocence and anger over his conviction, incomprehension and a steadfast faith in the legal system of his adopted home country — assures aud identification with his character, despite the fact Raddad isn’t portrayed as a saint. Supporting cast is spot-on.

Popular on Variety

Omar Killed Me


Production: A Mars Distribution release of a Tessalit Prods. production, in association with Mars Films, France 2 Cinema, Hole in One Films, with the participation of Canal Plus, France Televisions, Cinecinema, 13eme Rue, Canal Plus Horizons. (International sales: Elle Driver, Paris.) Produced by Rachid Bouchareb, Olivier Lorelle. Co-producer, Roschdy Zem. Directed by Roschdy Zem. Screenplay, Olivier Gorce, Zem, Rachid Bouchareb, Olivier Lorelle, based on the books "Pourquoi moi?" by Omar Raddad and Sylvie Lotiron, and "Omar: La Construction d'un Coupable," by Jean Marie-Rouart.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, 35mm-to-HD), Jerome Almeras; editor, Monica Coleman; music, Alexandre Azaria; production designer, Francois Emmanuelli; costume designer, Veronique Tremoureux; sound (Dolby Digital), Brigitte Taillandier; line producer, Muriel Merlin; assistant director, Mathieu Schiffman; casting, Justine Leocadie. Reviewed at Cine Utopia, Luxembourg, July 21, 2011. (In Toronto Film Festival -- Discovery.) Running time: 85 MIN.

Cast: With: Sami Bouajila, Denis Podalydes, Maurice Benichou, Salome Stevenin, Nozha Khouadra. (French, Moroccan Arabic dialogue)

More Scene

  • Taika Waititi Natalie Portman SDCC 2019

    Natalie Portman Weighs in on 'Thor: Love and Thunder's' Possible Breast Cancer Storyline

    Natalie Portman doesn’t know if “Thor: Love and Thunder” will include a breast cancer storyline for her character Jane Foster, but she’s definitely intrigued by the possibility. “It’s just very rare that these kinds of big entertainment films look at more serious, real-life issues,” she told Variety at L.A. Dance Project’s 8th annual fundraising gala [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Recalls Husband Blake Edwards' Battle With Depression

    The line to see Julie Andrews at the 92nd Street Y wrapped around the square of a sprawling New York City block. Seventy years since the start of her career, 60 since she asked “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” as Lerner and Loewe’s first Eliza and 50 since she sang “The Sound of Music” before the [...]

  • Bombshell Charlize Theron Megyn Kelly

    'Bombshell': Why Charlize Theron Was Terrified of Playing Megyn Kelly

    Charlize Theron is getting some of the best buzz of her career for channeling Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” but the Oscar-winning actress admits she almost turned down the role. “I was shit scared,” Theron said during a question-and-answer session following a Manhattan screening of “Bombshell” on Sunday. Partly, she was worried about portraying someone who [...]

  • Natalie Portman Benjamin Millipied LA Dance

    Natalie Portman, Benjamin Millepied Help Raise Over $1 Million For L.A. Dance Project

    Natalie Portman may be joining Chris Hemsworth in Marvel’s “Thor 4: Love and Thunder,” but as the petite, Dior-clad actress struck a range of poses on the carpet inside downtown Los Angeles gallery space Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel on Saturday night, it was impossible to imagine her wielding an enormous hammer. But then, the Oscar [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content