Multiple Perspectives in Ajami

Ajami is a film that was co-written, directed, and produced by Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis, and which was structured at lot like the movie Crash, with various stories coming together in the final  scenes. The stories follow both Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis, and though Arabic is the film’s predominant language, Hebrew is also a very important component. Still, it is very significant that the movie was selected as Israel’s official submission to the Academy Awards- it was the first predominantly Arabic-language film to be selected as such.

At times, the movie reads like a laundry list of problems in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A short list? Unequal treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel, checkpoints, poverty, the divide between Palestinians inside and outside Israel, drugs, the divide between Christian and Muslim Palestinians, frustrations of Jewish-Israeli police, the difficulties of maintaining positive relationships between Jews and Palestinians in Israel, the kidnapping (and murder) of Israelis by Palestinians, neo-tribalism.

With such a long, complex list, there was a sense that a primary audience may have been a foreign one, with the movie being an attempt to show the outside world how complex the situation is, how much more nuanced it is than is generally portrayed. Still, I think that the message is geared equally, and maybe more importantly, inward to both mainstream Palestinian and Jewish-Israeli societies. Because the story is told from so many different perspectives, the viewer is made to feel sympathy for an array of characters from both sides of the conflict, and who is a “bad guy” for one character is developed and humanized in other scenes such that the roles are switched. In large part, this leads the audience to see that the labels of “good” and “bad” are too simplistic for the issues surrounding them. It works to show people on both sides a view that makes them feel empathy for the “other,” understanding that each side faces their own challenges. The story offers no happy endings. It doesn’t push an idealistic view of both sides getting along, it doesn’t have any feel-good message. But it does ask that people look to both sides with some measure of understanding, and an understanding that there is no black and white in their world. That, I think, is the biggest strength of this movie.

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4 Responses to Multiple Perspectives in Ajami

  1. Sunaina Basu says:

    This movie seems like a great watch, for both those nationals and foreigners. It serves as a means to bring people together and empathize (to a certain point) with the other side. Because, it shows the experiences of everyone. How did the audience react to this film? Also, I was wondering if there were any problems in distribution, because of limitations put down by the State? It is great that this film was a collaboration in terms of language and the making and shows that media, can play a big role in bridging age-old gaps. Do you know of any unexpected reactions to this film? Because it would be interesting to analayze the difference in reactions to the film, in Palestine and Israel and between people of different ages etc.

  2. Sam C. Sager says:

    As a huge fan of the movie “Crash” I am intrigued by “Ajami” and your detailed description makes it seem like it is not only an entertaining movie, but also insightful examination of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    One of the things I found most interesting about “Crash” was the way it used racial stereotyping in a lot of scenes to drive the plot. For example, in one a white women holding her purse tighter and moving closer to her husband when she sees two black man walking towards her. While this may seem minor it’s indicative of an overall theme of exploiting these stereotypes in this movie and a lot of other American films.

    Is this use of racial stereotyping as prominent in “Ajami” as the director attempts to introduce and cover such a laundry list of Palestinian-Israeli issues?

  3. I appreciate your highlighting the absence of binaries in this film. The stories are woven together and connected in such a way that yields a clear plot, yet this plot does not follow a linear pattern of good triumphs over evil. Rather, one story’s villain is the next’s hero. This film does an incredible job breaking down the black and white rhetoric often attributed with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Throughout the movie, you find yourself sympathizing with the hero of each story regardless of whether they are Palestinian or Israeli. However, each hero is faced with different types of situations in varying degrees of severity. By focusing on the types of issues faced by each hero, does the film merely provide the viewer with an even-sided description of the conflict? Or does it seem to be sending a message as well? I could not say for sure. However, I’m not convinced that the film is just a presentation of the reality on the ground.

  4. I’m intrigued by the fact that this film was selected as the official film of Israel in the Academy Awards. So does that mean there were no reservations from the government? If not, I wonder why that is? Also, it’s interesting how this movie seems to have a large distribution arena than most other films but the language doesn’t reflect that because it has the association with a very reputable American award ceremony. Even if it didn’t win, because of it’s high status association, do you think that will affect it’s reception from now on?

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