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Ajami is an area of Jaffa where Arabs, Palestinians, Jews and Christians try to live together in an atmosphere that is -to say the least - electric. Omar, an Israeli Arab, struggles to save his family from elimination by a gang of extortionists. He also courts a beautiful Christian girl, Hadir, but marrying her is far from obvious. Malek, an illegal Palestinian worker, tries to collect enough money to pay for his mother's operation. Dando, an Israeli cop, does his utmost to trace his missing brother who may have been killed by Palestinians. Binj, Malek and Omar's Arab friend, suffers from being rejected by other members of his community for mixing with an Israeli girl. All of them will meet violence, most of the time ... with violence. Written by
Old Jaffa, bordered by the Mediterranean on the east and surrounded on the other three sides by Tel Aviv, is still predominantly Arab and Ajami is one of its neighborhoods. This film, which tells its several stories episodically and without drawing any explicit lessons, conveys the hazards attending life in a place where Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, Bedouin and other criminal gangs, rub up against one another under the sometimes watchful eye of Israeli police. Without summarizing the story to the point of revealing the plot, it is about violence and the threat of violence, about familial ties and codes, about vengeance and deals to appease the avengers. It is very well acted, and the subtitles make clear what is being said either in Arabic or Hebrew and occasionally both at once. The film makers have not had much experience. That makes it all the more remarkable that they have succeeded so admirably in telling overlapping stories from different vantage points and, sometimes, out of sequence without confusing the viewer. It is harsh but powerful film and well worth the two hours required to watch it.
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