Ajami (2009)

SCANDAR COPTI, YARON SHANI

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Germany/Israel, 2009.  Inosan Productions, Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion GmbH, ARTE, Das Kleine Fernsehspiel, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Vertigo Films, World Cinema Fund.  Screenplay by Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Production Design by .  Film Editing by Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani.  

The Israel/Palestine conflict is distilled down to a handful of interconnected violent interactions on the streets of Tel Aviv in this fascinating epic drama, directed without a script and with non-professional actors who were mostly improvising (neither of which are apparent).  A downward spiral begins when a Bedouin gangster enters an Arabic bar demanding protection money and is killed almost immediately.  This leads to retribution demands from the family of the shooter, which makes trouble for his neighbors while his family has to figure out a way to come up with reparation money for the family of the deceased.  The killer’s nephew has to get into drug dealing to raise the money, which brings about problems for more people, with characters both Arab and Israeli thrown into a game of survival that has already set them up for failure.  Not quite the terrifying grittiness of Gomorrah, this is still a riveting tragedy that presents its characters’ realities without pointing fingers or demanding sympathy.

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Foreign Language Film

European Film Award Nomination:  Best European Discovery

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