Ball of con­fu­sion

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Ajami, tale from Is­rael’s mean streets, not rated, in He­brew and Ara­bic with sub­ti­tles, CCA Cin­e­math­eque, 2.5 chiles This tough, gritty Is­raeli movie — an Os­car nom­i­nee for Best For­eign Lan­guage film — has a lot of things go­ing for it, but clar­ity is not one of them. Fash­ioned on the model of Crash, which in­ter­wove mul­ti­ple sto­ries of street crime and per­sonal prob­lems, Ajami shuf­fles a deck of nar­ra­tive cards and deals them for­ward and back­ward. Sto­ries stop and start, over­lap, re­verse, and side­step one an­other. It’s a patch­work tale of life in the mean streets of Ajami, a multi-eth­nic, mul­ti­faith ghetto in the an­cient sec­tion of Jaffa in Tel Aviv. Who is that? and Where the hell are we? are ques­tions that will pop into the viewer’s mind more than once.

All of this cin­e­matic schizophre­nia is, not sur­pris­ingly, the work of a pair of writer-direc­tors. They are Yaron Shani, an Is­raeli Jew, and Scan­dar Copti, an Is­raeli Arab. And that col­lab­o­ra­tion across the cul­tural/po­lit­i­cal/re­li­gious di­vide is one fac­tor be­hind the strong re­views this movie is get­ting, though by no means the only one.

Ajami weaves to­gether sto­ries, char­ac­ters, lo­ca­tions, and time frames as it paints its pic­ture of peo­ple caught in des­per­ate cir­cum­stances. Nasri (Fouad Habash), a young Arab boy with an im­pres­sive tal­ent for draw­ing, be­gins to nar­rate the story, or one of the sto­ries, as he sketches the

This is go­ing to get worse be­fore it gets bet­ter: Ajami

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