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Reviews for February 3rd, 2010




Ajami

Directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani.
In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. Omar (Shahir Kabaha) and his younger brother, Nasri (Fouad Habash), both Muslims, fear for their lives when a gang of Bedouin assassins mistakenly gun down their cousin when they were actually targeting Omar in retaliation for their uncle killing a member of the gang. Abu Elias (Youssef Sahwani), the Palestinian Christian owner of a restaurant/bar, works out a deal that would lead to a truce if Omar pays a large sum of money which, not surprisingly, he doesnít have. In hope of earning money, Omar becomes a drug dealer. In a parallel subplot, 16-year-old Palestinian Malek (Ibrahim Frege), an illegal immigrant, arrives at Abuís restaurants and accepts a job there to make enough money that would pay for his motherís bone marrow transplant. Omar happens to be in a relationship with Hadir (Ranin Karim), Abuís daughter, and tries to keep that secret from Abu because itís forbidden for her to marry outside of her religion. In another subplot, a Jewish police officer, Dando (Eran Naim) desperately searches for his missing brother, a soldier in the army. He also searches the home of Binj (Scandar Copti) for drugs before leaving to deal with scene of a crime involving a Jewish man whoís stabbed to death. The screenplay by co-writers/directors Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani weaves these dramatically intense narrative threads together non-chronologically which demands a lot of attention from attentive viewers. At times, you might find yourself a bit confused and unable to feel fully immersed in the overlapping subplots, but suddenly another crucial event or twist comes around to help clear up the confusion. Thereís a constant sense of dread and unease throughout the film that makes for an emotionally devastating experience that highlights the harsh truths and brutal violence found in the Middle East conflict without resorting to any euphemismsóthereís very little comic relief or sugarcoating to be found here. The combination of drama, suspense and violent action committed by both young and old troubled individuals recalls scenes from the film Gomorrah. Concurrently, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani donít include preachy dialogue to comment about Middle East politics; instead, they let the action, tragedy and struggles of each character speak for themselves. At a running time of 2 hours Ajami manages to be a brutally honest, harrowing and provocative glimpse into the cycle of violence in the Middle East.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Kino International.
Opens at the Film Forum and on February 5th, 2010 at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.



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