Movie: Ajami (2009)

(Arabic: عجمي, Hebrew עג’מי); Country: Israel; Languages: Arabic, Hebrew)

This is the first Israeli film I have ever watched. The story focuses on the Palestinians living in Israel, or “Israeli Arabs” as they are called, and takes place in the Ajami neighbourhood of the city of Jaffa.

It’s not a single coherent story but based on five interconnecting and overlapping storylines of the five protagonists, four of them Arabs and one an Israeli soldier.

It’s largely about intra-Arab gang warfare, their poverty which leads them to illegal drug selling, and about the problems the Arabs face in their social lives.

A few troubled Arab youth independently gather to work at a restaurant owned by a Christian Arab in Jaffa, who is active in the Arab community and helps his fellow Arabs regardless of religion with their problems whenever he can. It is from there the troubled protagonists secretly embark on their quick money-making schemes, all of which come to naught.

I personally found the characterisation of Arabs a bit troubling. The emphasis is on intra-Arab gang warfare and the culture of honour and blood revenge, their failure to unite in their opposition to the life of ignominy and oppression they are forced to live, and their continual non-acceptance of the state of Israel even though some Arabs are citizens of Israel and carry its passport. But perhaps I’m reading too much into it. It might well be a true depiction of the lives of Arabs living in those lands.

There are two directors of this film. One is a Jewish Israeli and the other is a Christian Arab from Jaffa (Scandar Copti). There was a controversy after the film was nominated for Oscar.

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