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Israel Submits Arabic-Language Film for Oscars

BBC profiles ‘Ajami’

Ari M. Brostoff
October 21, 2009

Earlier this month, Israel for the first time chose an Arabic-language film, Ajami, as its Oscar submission; the movie was co-directed by Jewish and Arab filmmakers and follows a series of mafia-style killings in Ajami, an Israeli-Arab neighborhood in Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv. So what do Ajami’s residents think of the film? “It’s nothing but shooting and drugs, shooting and drugs—it’s true, but it will ruin our reputation,” one young man told the BBC for a feature that runs today. Some said it wasn’t political enough—“I’m shocked that Jews like the film more than Arabs, even though it shows that we are like this because of them!” another viewer reported, referring to the decades of martial law after Israel’s independence, followed by years of discrimination, that Israeli-Arabs in Jaffa have faced. And then there were the residents of Ajami who were actually in the film—the directors cast primarily non-professional actors who “were not given the script, just thrown into scenarios and told to react.” One woman who played a mother who’d lost her son to gang violence told the news service, “I was really crying, I wasn’t acting.”

Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.