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Review: Ajami

This Middle Eastern Boyz N the Hood  teeters, but doesn't Crash
By PETER KEOUGH  |  February 24, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

Set in the Arab neighborhood of the title, this Israeli nominee for the Best Foreign Language Oscar starts out like a Middle Eastern Boyz N the Hood. A kid is gunned down in a drive-by shooting. It's the wrong guy — they're after Omar (Shahir Kabaha), who's been targeted by a Bedouin clan because of a blood feud.

Omar tries to settle the score through an elder, who orders him to pay an impossible amount. Should he fight or flee? Had directors Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani (Palestinian and Israeli, respectively) stuck with this one story — which they shoot in vérité style on location, with local actors improvising their own dialogue — they'd have had plenty to work with.

Instead, they skew the chronology, adding four more plot lines and a revelatory dénouement. The structure teeters but doesn't succumb to the contrivances of Crash. Instead, it orchestrates points of view à la Quentin Tarantino — this in a country where understanding someone else's point of view is a key to peace.

  Topics: Reviews , Entertainment, Culture and Lifestyle, Language and Linguistics,  More more >
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