Improvised acting gives satisfying view

Ajami is a fantastic film about intersecting violent fate and tragic coincidence. Set in the Ajami neighborhood along the West Bank in Israel, it follows five different Israelis and Palestinians through a brief, violent period in the modern-day Middle East.

This Oscar-nominated film from Israel is a tragic tale of young people being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What’s even more surprising is that the actors are all untrained, without a background in acting and yet their emotion and reactions are more than just believable — they are completely real. Most of the scenes are actually improvised, which in hindsight makes the acting all the more fantastic.

Reminiscent of movies like Memento and Crash, the lead characters’ lives cross while the storyline moves both backward into the past and forward into the future. Flashbacks guide the movie, making it a tad confusing if you are not playing close attention. The film’s characters speak in Arabic and Hebrew, the actors’ native tongues, making it more realistic.

With this film, the audience is able to see real-world occurrences of residents in the religiously and culturally diverse section of Israel where Arabs, Palestinians, Jews, and Christians live in close quarters. Family feuds are central.
The young men are caught up in a fight for honor involving drugs, guns, and missing and illegal persons. Overall, the plot is extremely interesting and best of all, it leaves nothing for for viewers to criticize. The movie begins with a young boy being gunned down in the street, which sparks the narrator and the boy’s neighbor, Nasri (Fouad Habash), to begin telling the story of how his family became involved in a gang war. 

Ibrahim Frege (Malek) and Shahir Kabaha (Omar) shine in their roles as the most appealing characters. Furthermore, being filmed on-site gives the scenes a more genuine and intense feel. The five stories are separated into five chapters and events are taken moment by moment — the audience must guess and assume throughout the movie until motives and full sequences are revealed.

This movie is not for those who want a light-hearted dramedy to fill up hours stuck at home. Though this film has its humorous moments, the majority of screen time is filled with hostile suspense.

Directed by Scandar Copti, who also stars in the film, and Yaron Shani, both from Tel Aviv, this film is an absolute must-see for lovers of foreign film.