Ajami | Film Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Ajami 

Crash Course: Ajami creates a vivid, authentic world that’s bleak but not oppressive.

Pin It
Favorite
Ajami
  • Ajami

Like most films set in the Middle East, Ajami depicts the region as a powder keg. But in nearly every other way, it’s a surprise: a bold and serious film about the frail threads that keep—or fail to keep—a society from falling apart.

The title refers to a sketchy neighborhood in Jaffa, Israel, where Muslims, Christians and Jews coexist uneasily. A teenager is gunned down outside his house, mistaken for Omar (Shahir Kabaha), a decent young man targeted by Bedouins. Abu Elias (Youssef Sahwani), a powerful godfather type who controls much of the neighborhood, steps in as moderator between Omar’s family and the Bedouins, putting Omar in his debt.

But this is just the beginning of Ajami’s intricate web. Abu Elias employs a 16-year-old boy named Malek (Ibrahim Frege), a West Bank refugee trying to make money to help his ailing mother. Malek and Omar have an amiable pal who might be in some drug-related trouble. A cop (Eran Naim) is searching for his brother. The film—written and directed by first-time filmmakers Scandar Copti (an Israeli Arab) and Yaron Shani (a Jew)—presents its “chapters” out of chronological order, allowing the story to double back and present things from different points of view. The tragic error that opens the film encapsulates the rest of it. It’s all about sad misunderstandings perpetrated by flawed, relatable humans.

Comparisons to Crash are inevitable, as are observations that Ajami takes what Crash tried to do and does a better job of it. Using mostly nonprofessional actors and improvised dialogue, Copti and Shani create a vivid, authentic world that’s bleak but not oppressive. Rather, it’s suspenseful, the way certain good movies can take us to dark places without leaving us there. The directors’ personal connection to the material makes it resonate more deeply.

AJAMI

3_5_stars.gif

Shahir Kahaba, Youssef Sahwani, Ibrahim Frege
Not Rated

Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of...

  • Letters to Juliet

    True Love: Letters to Juliet is more than a sunny, romantic travelogue.
    • May 12, 2010
  • The Losers

    The Also-Team: Every other minute of The Losers is stuff you’ve seen before.
    • Apr 21, 2010
  • The Runaways

    Jett Plain: The Runaways, like the band, emphasizes style over artistic substance.
    • Apr 7, 2010
  • More »

More by Eric D. Snider

  • Playing for Keeps

    Game Night finds the fun in people who don't know the game is real.
    • Feb 21, 2018
  • Skate Expectations

    The sympathetic portrait in I, Tonya defies assumptions.
    • Jan 3, 2018
  • Parallel Lives

    Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck unites two tales of youthful discovery.
    • Nov 8, 2017
  • More »

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Adversarial System

    Church and State shapes the marriage-equality fight with unique heroes and villains.
    • Jul 11, 2018
  • Small Favors

    Ant-Man and the Wasp helps make comic-book action feel fun again.
    • Jul 4, 2018
  • None More Bleak

    Movies to remind you that, hey, it could always be worse.
    • Jun 27, 2018
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • List We Forget ...

    Celebrating the best of 2016 in film.
    • Dec 28, 2016
  • Kid Stuff

    A lovely child performance anchors the satisfying family drama of Gifted.
    • Apr 12, 2017

© 2018 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation