Ajami

"Excellent"

Ajami Review


A searing story of the collision of three religious communities in Israel, this provocative street-level drama feels thoroughly realistic, with vivid characters that cut through the fragmented story structure.

In the Ajami neighbourhood of Jaffa, Omar (Kabaha) is the target of a gang feud involving his uncle. While his pre-teen brother Nasri (Habash) watches, he gets himself deeper into trouble trying to find a solution, including a dangerous decision to sell drugs for pay-off money. Caught in this mess is Malek (Frege), a 16-year-old Palestinian who needs money for his mother's medical bills. But this creates serious trouble for Omar and Malek's Christian boss Anan (Kabob) and his father (Sahwani). Not to mention a Jewish cop (Naim) trying to stop the deal.

Filmmakers Copti and Shani capture the situation with striking realism, using offhanded performances and eerily authentic interaction between the various groups of people. When the film gets violent, it feels sudden and terrifying.

And the relationships are both emotionally raw and humorously lively. The film is structured in five chapters that attempt to twist the time-scale Pulp Fiction-style, fracturing the narrative and circling around to fill in details and revelations later. Sometimes this works, but it often leaves us wondering what's actually going on.

That said, the plot itself is the least of our concerns, as the filmmakers so adeptly capture the characters' overpowering sense of vulnerability. And that's what this film is really about. All of these communities rely on each other, even as they're threatened and try to keep each other at arm's length. And within the Muslim community, there is strong tension between clans, as witnessed in a revealing reconciliation session between two warring families.

The script cleverly includes strong interpersonal relationships that we can identify with, such as Omar's forbidden love for Anan's sister (Karim), the two brothers' desperation to protect each other and the cop's turbulent family life. As tit-for-tat revenge rears its ugly head, the film gets increasingly harsh and dark, and we realise that most people are using religion as an excuse to indulge in brutal "solutions" to their frustrations. But of course they're only fuelling a pointless cycle of violence.



Ajami

Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Run time: 124 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 17th September 2009

Box Office USA: $0.6M

Distributed by: Kino International

Production compaines: Inosan

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Fresh: 64 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani

Producer: Moshe Danon, Thanassis Karathanos

Starring: Fouad Habash as Nasri, Nisrine Rihan as Ilham, Elias Saba as Shata, Youssef Sahwani as Abu-Lias, Abu George Shibli as Sido, Ibrahim Frege as Malek, Scandar Copti as Binj, Shahir Kabaha as Omar, Hilal Kabob as Anan, Ranin Karim as Hadir, Eran Naim as Dando Ben David, Sigal Harel as Dando's sister, Tamar Yerushalmi as Dando's mother, Moshe Yerushalmi as Dando's father

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