ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In 2008, Waleed Zuaiter came to New Mexico to film one of his first movies.
In “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” he starred alongside George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.
Flash forward six years and Zuaiter stars in the independent film, “Omar.” The film is up for an Academy Award for best foreign language film at today’s Oscar ceremony and is being shown at The Screen in Santa Fe.
In addition to starring in the film, he’s one of the producers.
“Omar” follows a young Palestinian freedom fighter who agrees to work as an informant after he’s tricked into an admission of guilt by association in the wake of an Israeli soldier’s killing.
Zuaiter plays Agent Rami, who tricks Omar into working as an informant.
Zuaiter says he attached himself to the project about three years ago when he was cast as Rami. Yet, after reading the entire script, he wanted to produce it.
“I signed on and was able to raise the money for the full budget,” he says.
“Omar” opened at the Cannes Film Festival and it immediately began garnering Oscar buzz.
“For ‘Omar’ we spent a lot of time in Palestine because that’s where it needed to be filmed,” Zuaiter says.
He says he hopes audiences will enjoy the characters and the story.
“It’s this timeless universal Shakespearian tragedy,” he says. “These are events that can take place anywhere. There’s also a love story in there.”
As for taking on other projects, Zuaiter says he’s ready to produce again, though it took some convincing.
“My answer changes on a daily basis,” he says of producing again. “When I wrapped the movie, I was traveling back to Jordan to visit my parents and thought to myself, ‘Do I want to do this again?’ It was a painful experience but I’ve learned so much. It would be unfair not to give it another chance.”
Zuaiter says he is promoting the film in the United States and wanted to bring the film to New Mexico.
“I still miss Albuquerque,” he says. “The sunrises and the sunsets. I’ve been to a lot of places in the world and none of them rival what I saw in New Mexico.”
Zuaiter says he would like to return to New Mexico to film an upcoming project.
“I’ve been looking for one that will be good to make there,” he says. “It’s a place where I had a very good time and I think making a film there would be phenomenal.”
FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Amy Goodman is celebrating the 18th anniversary of her TV show “Democracy Now!”
The broadcast journalist will be coming to Santa Fe at 7 p.m. March 14 to host a talk and sign her book, “The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope” at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco.
Goodman says the show is a daily news hour that broadcasts on 1,200 stations. The TV show is translated into Spanish to reach another audience.
“What we do is take the hot topics in the world and debate them,” she says. “We recently did a show on the big snowstorm on the East Coast versus the drought that the West Coast is seeing. These are topics that people are interested in.”
Of course, as with any live TV show, Goodman finds herself in binds sometimes.
“Travel plans change and we don’t have any control over it,” she says. “That’s the fun part of the job.”
Tickets are $15 at ticketssantafe.org or 505-988-1234.