Ajami DVD

In A, DVD/Blu-ray by Dan Clay

After the success of 2009’s Lebanon, Israel
seems to have become a fertile well for aspiring film makers and Scandar
Copti and Yaron Shani’s equally fascinating Oscar-nominated film Ajami digs deep
enough into the psyche to portray a grimy, realistic vision of life in a
particular Jaffa neighbourhood.

When an innocent boy is mistakenly
killed in a vendetta between two rival groups, Omar, the
intended target must raise enough money to keep the peace as a price for a
ceasefire. Into the story comes his younger brother Nasri, a hard-working
refugee Malek, the affluent and carefree Binj and a local policeman Dando as
Omar goes about his task to restore peace to this fractious suburb via some
dubious methods.

Taking its influence from the
Mexican dramas Amores Perros and Sin Nombre, Ajami’s
arresting opening
spawns several interwoven tales, which come to a head
as the film reaches it’s typically tragic climax. With a cast of
non-professionals, Copti delivers an intriguing and thought-provoking film
which, while offering little in the way of answers, poses enough questions to
keep the dram flowing.

Of the cast, Shahir Kabaha’s Omar
brings most to the role as the decisive and responsible protagonist while
Ibrahim Frege’s vulnerable and reluctant go-along Malek showcases
an impressively restrained technique. Shame then that after an impressive
and dramatic first hour
, the second degenerates slightly into one
street brawl after another
before a clever flashback brings us to the

Offering little in the way of a
lecture though, thankfully Copti and Shani’s storytelling weave allows us a
glimpse of the lives and decisions of an intriguing selection of individuals in this
area of the country. Whether their next film might offer more than some neat
touches to an arresting plot
remains to be seen but hopefully
they’ll be coming back to the well to draw plenty more cinematic water.