Ajami Gets Best Foreign Film Nomination

The Israeli film “Ajami” has received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film.

At an announcement ceremony Tuesday morning, nominees for best foreign language film included Germany’s “The White Ribbon,” the likely front-runner after taking the same prize at the Golden Globes and top honors at last May’s Cannes Film Festival. Also nominated were the Cannes runner-up, “A Prophet,” and Israel’s “Ajami,” Argentina’s “The Secret in Their Eyes” and Peru’s “The Milk of Sorrow.”

Ajami interweaves the stories of Arabs and Jews in a depressed neighborhood in Jaffa, at the southern end of Tel Aviv.  It was made without professional actors by first-time directors Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani.  It is largely in Arabic—a first for an Israeli Academy nominee.

At a screening of the movie last month at the Creative Artists Agency, Copti, a mechanical engineer by profession, told The Jewish Journal he attended a film making workshop Shani was leading where the two began talking about a film set in Copti’s neighborhood of Ajami.  The two collaborated on a year-long process that involved recruiting non-professional actors and leading them through what Shani called “psychological execises” to inhabit the characters they would play.

The results are all on screen: Ajami is gripping, fresh and raw—it works both as a slice of life drama, in the style of the 2009 Italian movie Gomorrah, and as a reflection on the greater forces—Israeli v. Palestinian, religious v. secular—that affect the characters’ lives.

By focusing on the personal, said Copti at the CAA screening, the filmmakers hoped to illuminate the universal. 

Go see Ajami at the Laemmle Theaters later this month and you’ll see they succeeded.

Here is what Jordan Elgrably wrote about the movie last week on