"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ajami and Jaffa - Two new features about Jews and Arabs in Jaffa

Two new feature films premiered this week at the Jerusalem Film Festival which portray the intersection of life between Arabs and Jews in the working class neighborhood of Jaffa. The films are Ajami (directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani) and Jaffa (directed by Keren Yedaya).

Ajami (2009), by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani (who also jointly edited and wrote the script), is an excellent film about the meeting place between different worlds, between the Palestinians of Israel and the Palestinians of the West Bank, and within Israel – between Christians and Muslims, between Jews and Arabs, and between Bedouin and local Arabs.

According to the filmmakers, who spoke at the premiere event at the Jerusalem Film Festival, the film was 7 years in the making and was purposefully made with a non-professional cast. But you wouldn't know it. The film, which won Special Mention at Cannes, is a fast-paced, very hard-hitting film and seems professional in every sense of the word. The amazingly authentic story is about crime, drugs, and the violence and desperation of life in the Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa.

The story moves back and forth in time (a la Pulp Fiction). 13-year-old Nasri and his older brother Omar are thrust into the fears and realities of life after their uncle shoots a Bedouin from a large clan in the Negev, who had been demanding protection money. Malek, a 16-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank, is working illegally in Jaffa in order to raise money for his mother's medical treatment. Binj (Scandar Copti) is planning on moving into an apartment with his Jewish girlfriend. Dando, a Jewish policeman, is helping his family in the search for his younger brother, a soldier who has gone missing. The stories all intertwine as the tension builds and the motivations that influence these people become clear.

The film is available from Inosan Productions Ltd., office@inosan.co.il

Jaffa (by Keren Yedaya) is a film about forbidden love between Arab and Jew and about a dysfunctional family. At the premiere screening at the Jerusalem Film Festival, film director Keren Yedaya said: "I wanted to create a dialogue – a human, aesthetic, family dialogue."

The narrative unfolds in the family garage in Jaffa, where Mali (Dana Ivgi), the daughter of the garage owner, falls in love with Tawfik (Mahmud Shalaby) one of the skilled workers. The dysfunctional family is humorously characterized by Mali's mother (Ronit Elkabetz), who plays a sexy and bitter middle-aged mother.

The film is available from Transfax Film, at sales@transfax.co.il

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