Here are a few short notes on Ajami (Shani & Copti, 2009); a collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers set in the multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Ajami in Jaffa.
Directors Shani and Copti use a broken, cyclical narrative to interweave five different stories. For most of the film it’s unclear how all of the threads that the filmmakers weave are connected. And because the audience is dropped into the middle of these stories, with little exposition of plot of character, the audience is always questioning what is happening, who they are seeing and why.
The timeline of the film’s events is especially opaque. It’s not until the very end of the film that we manage to get a sense of a linear timeline. This form is matched by the film’s content, which is centred on the cycle of ever-escalating violence that results in the tit-for-tat shootings, drug deals and beatings that seem to permeate every aspect of life in Ajami. It’s never clear when this violence started, or how it could end, it seems to continue endlessly. The film’s narrator, the teenage Nasri hints at the repetitive cycle of violence in his opening voiceover when he says that “I know I can feel what is about to happen (Shani & Copti, 2009)”; he knows what is about to happen because it’s happened before and it will happen again.
The Palestinian diaspora is referenced when Nasri and his sister are sent away for their own safety after their uncle is gunned down, yet his older brother Omar refuses to leave, because he believes that only cowards run away. And the reportage tradition also appears in Nasri’s comics which he draws based on the events that he sees around him.
Shani, Y. & Copti, S., (2009), Ajami, Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion GmbH