AJAMI (15) **** Directed by: SCANDAR COPTI, YARON SHANI Starring: SHAHIR KABAHA
This collaboration between writer/directors Scadar Copti, an Israeli-born Palestinian, and Yaron Shani, an Israeli Jew, is named for the neighbourhood in Jaffa where Jewish, Arab and Christian populations live in close proximity to one another.
As such, one might expect a heavy-handed, overly schematic Crash-style exploration of racial and ethnic tensions.
Instead Ajami is a confident contemporary crime thriller that, yes, may rely on perhaps a few too many plot coincidences to hang together, but otherwise offers a bracing insight into a troubled situation without hectoring us with insipid platitudes.
The drive-by shooting of a teenage boy is the starting point for a series of converging stories in which the neighbourhood's youngsters are sucked into a depressing vortex of violence.
Interweaving five different stories involving brushes with Bedouin gangsters, love across religious divides and the extremes of poverty and affluence (among other things), the film-makers subtly present a multi-perspective view on the situation thanks to disciplined use of that ubiquitous world-cinema narrative device of having all these vignettes come together in a plot-clarifying dnouement.
The way the film seems to capture the energy and the messiness of real life also helps give it a bit more edge.