Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ***
Scandar Copti, a Palestinian, and Yaron Shani, an Israeli Jew, teamed up to direct the crime drama Ajami. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film, which seems more a result of that behind-the-scenes achievement than anything that occurs onscreen. Indeed, comparing it to some of Amos Gitai's better films (Yom Yom, Kadosh, etc.) it feels rather graceless, and compared to something like City of God,Ajami feels practically inert.
And yet the film is still effective in its own, small way. It follows several characters in five overlapping chapters, all set in one multi-ethnic section of Jaffa, near Tel Aviv. It begins as a man working on a car is gunned down in the street. It turns out that the real target was the neighbor who sold him the car, Omar (Shahir Kabaha), an Arab Israeli. Worse, Omar is in love with Hadir (Ranin Karim), who is the right race, but the wrong religion; they can't be together. There's another revenge shooting, a botched drug sale, a cop searching for his missing brother, and another illicit romance, between a Jew and a Palestinian.
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