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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
Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? Does it matter?
Ajami tells the tale of Israeli Jews and Arabs, albeit splintered. The audience is treated to a violent opening followed by dialogue and interaction. As they see the individual characters unwind, the Arab store owner, the Israeli cop, things begin to get more complicated.
The primary power of Ajami is in its mode of storytelling which correlates to the content itself. There are several chapters, each telling a different story. What is most intriguing is how these stories fit. A character will appear two chapters later only for his intentions to be revealed then. A certain act of violence, a consequence of violence, etc. are not contextualized but only taken in the moment. The viewer may be tempted to judge or hold preconceived notions about the characters until the filmmakers, often with great effect, reveal the true intentions of these individuals.
This can be applied to the whole of the Israel-Palestine situation. Each violence has its lasting impact on individuals and groups alike. In Ajami a murder is not only between the victim and the perpetrator. Likewise reading in the news about a killing can only tell a fraction of the truth. The filmmakers wisely adopted a very documentary like feel to this film, similar to The Class and Gomorra. Characters names are only mentioned realistically. There is a sense of confusion as to who is whom for some of the sequences. At times it is frustrating because a Western audience may be more tempted to discuss the actual identity of a character than understand the point of the movie as a whole. Another issue is that this documentary, video approach to film-making can sometimes feel problematic or trite. By the time the third and fourth chapters are reached, there are several emotional climaxes. But these are immediately followed by more revealing. It works in most cases, prompting me to give Ajami a very high mark.
It is a film worth seeing for anyone interested or disinterested in the region. A highly potent character study that proves, perhaps unintentionally, the power of a filmmaker to show or to not show intentions.
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