ISRAEL'S OFFICIAL ENTRY TO THE 2010 ACADEMY AWARDS Nominee for Best Foreign-Language Film at the 2010 Academy Awards
Spiralling violence slowly permeates the emotional fabric of Ajami, a fourfold Middle Eastern saga that slowly blends into one monumental story of woe. The film is jointly directed by an Israeli, Yaron Shani, and a Palestinian, Scandar Copti, who prove that though they may be unable to share a country, they are perfectly capable of sharing a movie. It's no coincidence that the film's greatest virtue is its tenacity.
By auditioning locals from Jaffa and arduously rehearsing for ten months, the directorial duo took the time to both adapt the actors to the film and the film to the actors. Each character has a special place in the script, which carefully establishes context for every new face before forging ahead with the final mission: to somehow bring them all together. In Jaffa's Ajami neighbourhood, young Nasri (Fouad Habash) finds himself in trouble when his uncle (Ghassan Ashkar), the proprietor of a humble café, unknowingly wounds a member of a powerful clan who tried to sell him protection. The attempt at retribution fails and mistakenly costs an innocent neighbour his life when, in fact, the intended target was Nasri's older brother Omar (Shahir Kabaha). The only way to survive is to pay their way out.
The traditional clan meeting, a deeply disturbing scene melding greed with religion, leaves Nasri's family deeply in debt and out of options. Meanwhile, Malek (Ibrahim Frege), a teenaged Palestinian from across the border, is putting his money aside for a whole different reason. Illegally employed at a luxurious restaurant, he's hoping to pay off his mother's bone marrow transplant. On the Israeli front, family man and police officer Dando (Eran Naim) is struggling to put his brother's disappearance behind him. Sent on a drug bust, he comes across Binj (Copti), a Palestinian with a Jewish girlfriend who dreams of leaving Ajami behind.
If all this seems a little overwhelming, that's because it is. Dropping you right in the middle of the ocean, Copti and Shani take their time throwing you a life buoy, just because they know that will make their rescue raft seem all the more rewarding. And believe me, it is. (literature source: Toronto International Film Festival)
This special Focus Israel presentation is co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest.
FESTIVALS AND AWARDS
"Ajami" is considered the most critically-acclaimed Israeli film ever! It won for Best Film, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Music and Best Screenplay. It had nine nominations. "Ajami" held its World Premiere at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival at the Director's Fortnight program. It won the prestigious Camera d'Or. It won Best Film Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and the Sutherland First Feature Award at the London Film Festival. "Ajami" held is North American Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has selected "Ajami" as a nominee for Best Foreign-Language Picture Oscar for 2010.
ABOUT DIRECTORS SCANDAR COPTI AND YARON SHANI
SCANDAR COPTI is a Palestinian citizen of the Israeli state, born (in 1975) and raised in Jaffa. Originally trained as a mechanical engineer, his first short, Truth, screened at the 2003 Artists Against Occupation in Montreal, and was purchased by the Israeli Channel 8. Since then, he has written, directed and edited several fiction, documentary and experimental short films. His video art works have been screened at the Israeli Center for Digital Art, the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art and at the Redding Art Fair 5 in Tel Aviv.
YARON SHANI is an Israeli Jew, born in 1973. A graduate of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Film and Television, his thesis film, Disphoria, won the Audience Award at the Babelsberg International Student Film Festival, as well as a Special Jury Mention at Karlovy Vary. The film was broadcast on ARTE and ZDF (Germany), and participated in several other international festivals. He has also directed and edited documentaries and 3D films for Orpan Group, shown in museums and cinemas all over the world.