Ajami is an ultra-realistic crime drama set in a scruffy neighborhood in Jaffa, Israel. The story weaves together Arab Christians and Arab Muslims and both religious and non-religious Israeli Jews. Everyone aspires to make a living and live in personal safety, but the circumstances and tribal identities make this very difficult at best. There are two trans-religious romances, but no one is going to live happily ever after.
It’s a film that doesn’t make any overt political statements, but shows what is from the perspective of individual of different backgrounds. Given their own experiences, it’s easy to understand the motivations of each character.
Ajami was co-writtten and co-directed by Scandar Copti, a Jaffa-born Palestinian, and Yaron Shoni, an Israeli Jew. After seeing the film, I was surprised to learn that it has no trained actors – all of the roles are played by real-life residents who improvised their lines to follow the story line.
Ajami was nominated for the most recent Best Foreign Language Oscar, was released earlier this year in US art houses and is now available on DVD..
Co-Director Scandar Copti discusses the process of using non-actors improvising within a script framework.