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Ajami (DVD Review)

25 Jul, 2010 By: Daniel Xu

Prebook 7/27/10; Street 8/24/10
Kino Lorber
Box Office $0.6 million
$29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.
In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Ajami is located on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Israel. It is a ghetto shared by Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the tension is not just palpable — it is lethal.

The film opens with the drive-by shooting of a teenager, a revenge act for an earlier incident in which young Omar’s uncle killed the member of a powerful gang. The teenager was mistaken for Omar, who is terrifyingly aware that the killers will soon return. What proceeds is an unrelenting examination of the region’s sectarian conflicts.

The story crisscrosses between Omar and his family, an illegal worker, a cook and a police officer. While all these characters are linked as surely as these multiple-perspective movies often make them, what they also share is a deep-rooted prejudice and hatred they are powerless to dispel.

Co-directors Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani employ a crossing-cutting technique akin to Paul Haggis’ Crash and a disjointed chronology similar to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Combining documentary-style camera work and a cast of unknown actors and actresses, the result is a powerful authenticity and realism worthy of its nomination for the Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film of last year.

The complexity of the story, and likely the foreign-language element (a key plot device in the film is certain characters’ inability to speak either Arabic or Hebrew), will require a second viewing to fully understand. For a film with such intense and heart-gripping drama, that should hardly be a problem.   

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