Critics Consensus

This multi-character drama balances intimate portrayals and broad political implications to paint a bracing and moving portrait of the Middle East conflict.



Reviews Counted: 68

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User Ratings: 7,062


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Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.8/5

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Movie Info

Palestinian Scandar Copti and Israeli Yaron Shani collaborated on this independent drama, which examines how the troubled relationship between their countries colors everyday life in the Middle East. Nasri (Fouad Habash) is a teenager whose family is in crisis: his uncle got into an altercation with a local crime boss, and in reprisal, his cousin has been murdered. The shooters, it seems, originally intended to kill Nasri's younger brother, Omar (Shahir Kabaha), in lieu of the cousin. Abu Elias (Youssef Sahwani), a restaurateur and respected member of the community, steps in to negotiate. Omar agrees to make a cash payment to the gangsters to prevent further violence, but since he doesn't have the money, he raises it by dealing drugs. Abu has a daughter, Hadir (Ranin Karim), who works at his restaurant; she's fallen in love with Omar, but since she's Christian and he's Muslim, they can't acknowledge their feelings in public. Also working at the restaurant is Malek (Ibrahim Frege), a 16-year-old illegal immigrant who is looking for any kind of job to help pay for his mother's medical treatments. And elsewhere, Dando (Eran Naim) is a policeman drawn into the chaotic life of Binj (Scandar Copti), a suspected drug dealer who has been arrested for attacking a Jewish neighbor; Dando is also preoccupied with the fate of his brother, who has suddenly gone missing. Ajami won a special distinction award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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News & Interviews for Ajami

Critic Reviews for Ajami

All Critics (68) | Top Critics (24)

What comes through is that the troubles besetting Muslims and Jews and their emotional responses are similar in nature. The people involved have so much in common.

Jan 12, 2018 | Full Review…
The Atlantic
Top Critic

The pattern of connections and coincidences is a little overschematic, but the movie has energy, especially in the grippingly real shooting scene at the beginning.

Jun 17, 2010 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

This is vividly challenging, utterly inclusive and heartfelt cinema. It's not only gripping to watch, but it'll open your eyes to the intractable human conundrums behind the blood-stained headlines.

Jun 16, 2010 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The performances are searingly intense, all delivered by non-professionals cast to type and extemporizing within the parameters of the script. They take the play out of acting, and the effect is unvarnished realism.

May 28, 2010 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The fact that these two Israelis from opposite camps worked together to make this movie is as important as the movie itself.

Apr 29, 2010 | Full Review…

A compelling drama about prejudice and folly.

Apr 22, 2010 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for Ajami

Ajami is a brutal, gripping and honest look at the endless violence that has been devastating the Middle East - a complex mosaic drama set in a neighborhood where Jews, Muslims and Christians clash against each other in intense hatred and desire for revenge.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Directed by a Palestinian and an Israeli, this film tells the stories of several men in Israel/Palestine who struggle in the midst of colonization and ethnic hatred. It wasn't until over an hour into the film that I finally figured out what was going on. The directors use an Tarantino-esque style of fractured narration and points of view, and though it may have been my fault - I might have been slow on the uptake - the story-telling was not as crisp as Tarantino, who is able to introduce all his characters in a short period of time without letting plot lines dangle too long. That said, once Ajami revealed itself, I found it remarkably compelling. Every moment rang with verisimilitude, and it felt like I was watching real people's lives unfold in a tragic, star-crossed land. Compared to other genuine films about Israel/Palestine, like Laila's Birthday, Ajami is much darker, almost hopeless. Its message is a desperate condemnation of the hatred and violence that suffuse everyday life in the directors' homelands. Overall, I think now that you know you can trust the directors' storytelling - that you know that it all makes sense by the end - you might be able to enjoy the hell out of this important film.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

It took a bit of time to figure out the disjointed non-linear plotting with this film. The detailed flashbacks, with increasingly more details, was likely the whole point of the movie. Every time more details were filled in, and more information was available, the assumptions about the motives and actions of the characters became more understandable. By the very end, it all came together in a most shocking way. Well done.

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

Okay, I think I'm in the twilight zone but, then again, I'm pretty sure I'm not.

It's not just that this is an interesting movie with some agile narrative manipulation along the lines of Pulp Fiction and Rashomon. That's a definite plus. You know you're watching a decent movie when time flies and you don't even bother to check the counter on your DVD player.

What is truly mind-blowing about this movie, however, is something I did not know going in nor did I even discover it, quite by accident, until I watched the extras and learned the "actors" are not professional actors. That's right, even though I kept telling myself, "Wow, this is a great group of really fine actors," I was mightily surprised to find out in the extras that not a single one of the people in this movie is an actor. They're all plain old folks brought in from the community, who were led through a few acting workshops, and then turned loose in front of the camera.

And if that isn't mind-blowing enough, none of them saw the script or knew the story throughout the filming of the movie. They were simply put into scenes, told what was basically going on in those scenes, and then they ad-libbed all the dialog. All the dialog. Every single word!

You have to see this not just because it's a decent story and well made, but especially because these are just average Joes and Janes from the neighborhood improvising a two-hour movie.

I repeat: mind-blowing!

And I hardly ever view the extras, as I've said in the past. A quick survey of "the critics" leads me to believe that not a whole lot of folks know -- or maybe even care -- about this phenomenon. And it is phenomenal, don't you think?

Lanning : )
Lanning : )

Super Reviewer

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