Ajami (Review)

Heartfelt Israeli drama looks at community's never-ending cylce of violence

Aug 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm

The writing/directing duo of Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti take on a hornet's nest of divergent cultural issues and social problems in Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood.

The ancient city of Jaffa is a famous melting pot. Jews, Muslims and Christians coexist and collide amid an atmosphere of drugs, violence and religious discipline. Over the course of five chapters the interconnected narrative follows a romantically inclined Israeli Arab named Omar (Shahir Kabaha); kind-hearted Malek (Ibrahim Frege), a Palestinian illegal refugee from Nablus; Dando (Eran Naim), a Jewish police detective and family man; and Minj (Scandar Copti), a well-heeled Palestinian who wants to move in with his Jewish girlfriend.

The film is rooted in the minutiae of social existence. Characters sing, tell jokes and are far from perfect. Malek doesn't speak Hebrew but wants to sell drugs with Omar to finance his mother's essential surgery. Bedouin gangsters agree to a pay-off deal brokered by Abu-Elias (Yousef Sahwani), a Christian Arab restaurant owner, to spare Omar’s life. (One of his relatives killed one of their members.) Little does Abu-Elias realize that his daughter Anan (Hilal Kabob) is having a relationship with Omar, whose days seem numbered.

Ajami is a heartfelt picture of communities ripped apart in a never-ending cycle of violence. Grade: B-plus

Opens Aug. 6. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.