Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Omar & Pete: A PBS Feature Not to be Missed

Beautifully filmed, profoundly told, Point of View's Omar and Pete is one of those PBS gems not to be missed. The documentary's creators follow two men from prison to the parole process and to the streets, where addiction's pull is the most potent.

The mystery between one man's redemption and the other's continuing cycle of failure is one that is doubly haunting if one has ever worked with addicts, or lived with one. If only there was a magic word, or perfect little sermonette, or experience large and mean and scarey enough to make an addict stop using. But the message of "Omar and Pete" is simply that no guaranteed fix like that exists. What does exist is hope, and an inner switch thrown inside a human heart and mind that -- can I say it? -- appears to be as mysterious as conversion.

Don't be mistaken. This isn't a Christian -- or Islamic (despite Omar's religious leanings) -- tract. Faith is somehow private here, even in the midst of having a camera lens focused upon it, just as with all other aspects of the two men's lives.

The film's images, captured by Slawomir Grunberg, are flawless but never self-indulgent, somehow finding in a prisonscape or an inner-city winter the same tensions, fears, and hopes the two men seem to be experiencing. I can't recommend this film highly enough. Consult P.O.V.'s website or your own PBS station for times it might be airing near you. [Photo Credit: "Omar prays in prison yard" by Slawomir Grunberg]

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