"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.


Monday, March 8, 2010


It was a big disappointment last night that Ajami (directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani) did not win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The film reflects the story of a neighborhood filled with tension and crime. Perhaps some background would be helpful, especially since the neighborhood of Ajami has been in the news in Israel quite a bit lately not only because of the film and its Oscar nomination.

My eldest daughter works in the field of planning and has been involved in issues having to do with Jaffa, specifically the crumbling neighborhood of Ajami. In a conversation this past weekend, she explained that planning decisions have been made over the years that have led to Ajami becoming one of Israel's worst slums. Take a Palestinian neighborhood, add Jewish immigrants into the mix, neglect the area and forget long-term planning.

Since this neighborhood is right on the coast, it was historically developed with a very important connection to the water. Over the years, however, a huge garbage dump and land fill was created on the Ajami beaches – a comment on how the neighborhood was viewed.

In recent years, as new immigrants moved out and some Palestinian families left, a process of gentrification began. Here in particular, it was a controversial process because gentrification was raising property values and today the locals can barely continue to afford to live here.

On top of all of this, Jaffa has been in the headlines also because of police brutality coincidentally against relatives of the now renowned Palestinian filmmaker. In addition, extremist Jewish religious groups are moving into the area in a publicly stated goal of transforming the mixed Arab-Jewish town into a solely Jewish town. This practice is a form of incitement which is supported by many in the establishment, as witnessed by a recent court ruling in favor of one of these groups buying and developing property for an Orthodox Jewish community on the edge of Ajami.

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