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Reviewed on 2010-06-12
RatedNot Rated
Received[3]  out of 4 stars
Israelís submission for Best Foreign Language Film was one of the five finalists at the 2010 Academy Awards. The title refers to the tough, multi-ethnic neighborhood in Jaffa that is home to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

The unique collaboration of filmmakers Yaron Shani, an Israeli Jew, and Scandar Copti, a Palestinian, shows what is possible from joint cooperation. They developed a strong trusting friendship and this fictional account has a very precise structure that was inspired by real events encountered in everyday life.

This crime drama is divided into five chapters. Each segment is brilliantly constructed and told from the perspective of a different character while moving back and forth in time.

Omar, a young Arab Muslim, is trying to protect his family from a revengeful vendetta. He incurs a monetary debt to settle the dispute. His younger brother Nasri, a sketch artist, has a premonition that something bad is about to happen. Malek, an illegal alien, is working to raise enough money to pay for his ailing motherís bone marrow transplant. Dando, a Jewish police detective, is obsessed with finding his brother, who went missing on the way home from the military. Binj (played by Copti), a Palestinian, wants to move to Tel Aviv and live with his Israeli girlfriend.

Abu Elias, a Christian restaurant owner, employs Omar, Malek and Binj. He finds out that his daughter Hadir is in love with Omar. He will do anything to prevent her from marrying outside the religion and ruining the family reputation.

Despite its complexity, this movie displays genius storytelling strands that eventually come together at the end. The use of non-professional local actors, authentic locations and unscripted situations gives this film a documentary quality that seems true to real life.

The cultural and religious tensions simmering beneath the surface are exposed in this place of violence, poverty, hostility, despair and drugs where a gun or a knife is readily accessible and easy to draw.

The movie is insightful in revealing how messy life can be with enemies living in close proximity to one another. The press notes point out the language barrier that exists since most Israeli Jews donít speak Arabic.

The movie was a box office hit in Israel where it was awarded Israeli Oscars for Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Editing and Music. It also won prizes at the Cannes, London, Jerusalem, Boulder, Ghent, Thessaloniki and Montpelier film festivals.

The dialogue is in Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles. Now playing exclusively for a limited engagement at the Glenwood Arts in Overland Park.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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