NIF Film Club: Ajami

16 September 2020

Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and winner of many international film prizes, Ajami is a bold new crime drama set on the margins of an Arab ghetto in the Israeli city of Jaffa that “could almost be in the Los Angeles of ‘Boyz N the Hood,’ the Baltimore of ‘The Wire’ or the Rio de Janeiro of ‘City of God.’ (New York Times)

Teeming with Palestinian illegal immigrants, Arabs Israelis, Christians and Jews, Ajami is a cloistered urban neighborhood as treacherous and potentially deadly as the front lines of Gaza. When a Bedouin extortionist is gunned down in self defense, a teenager is mistakenly killed in retribution, and an entire Arab family faces extinction. Under the same roof, a young Palestinian risks his life and freedom to pay for treatment that would save his dying mother. Out on the streets, a Jewish cop preys on the local drug trade by night while searching for his missing brother by day. Enemy, neighbor, or both, everyone in Ajami runs the same risk of death, arrest, and heartbreak.

NIF Film Club discussed this film with NIF’s VP of Public Engagement Libby Lenkinski and director Yaron Shani.

Watch the film at your own convenience: rent or buy it on YouTube or the Israel Film Center

photo of Ajami director Yaron ShaniYaron Shani is a graduate of Tel Aviv University Film Department. In his thesis film, Disphoria (2003), he experimented with a unique way of making fiction with the authentic personalities of non-actors. Disphoria was awarded internationally at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and Sehsuchte Film Festival, and set him off to his debut feature length film Ajami (2009, co-created with Scandar Copti) which became a landmark in Israeli Cinema. Ajami was an Academy Award Nominee (Oscar) for Best Foreign Film; it has received a special distinction in Cannes; received five Israeli Academy Awards, among them – Best Film, Best Director and Best Script; and won15 other International awards including Golden Alexander at Thessaloniki IFF, Sutherland Trophy at London IFF and Best Feature Length Film at Jerusalem IFF. His next project – Life Sentences (co-directed with Nurit Kedar) won the Award for Best Documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival 2013. Since 2012, Shani has been working on his highly ambitious project – Love Trilogy. A world of intertwined human stories told from three different angles. Each film stands for itself, and the three-combined present an epic and surprising scope on the notion of love. Love Trilogy – Stripped premiered at Venice – Orizzonti 2018 and won awards for Best Editing and Best Actress at Haifa IFF 2018. Love Trilogy – Chained premiered at Berlinale Panorama 2019. Love Trilogy – Reborn premiered at Busan IFF 2019.

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