Ball of confusion
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