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Israeli-Arab film 'Ajami' spotlights tough, gentrifying Jaffa

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Tensions between the Arab residents of Jaffa and the Israeli officers sent in to police them have been a factor of life in the Jewish state for many years. Several residents interviewed for this article – some of them actors in the film – say that police aggression towards them is an ongoing problem that "Ajami" only touches upon briefly.

But the strength of the film is that it doesn't try to portray a one-sided view of the tensions in which disempowered Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians are victims and the Israeli-Jews are the aggressors. Rather, the film shows the multi-layered conflict in a way that blurs lines of right and wrong, and shows the humanity of all its flawed, lovable characters.

For example, there is a teenage Palestinian from the West Bank who has smuggled himself into Jaffa illegally to work in a restaurant in the hope of making enough money to help save his ailing mother -- and inadvertently winds up in the middle of a drug deal gone wrong. And there is an Israeli cop who, having just lost his brother – a soldier who was abducted and killed outside of Nablus - cracks and shoots the young Palestinian he should have simply arrested.

The film also touches on the social complications of life for the approximately 20 percent of Israel's citizens who are "Israeli-Arabs," from forbidden romances between Jews and Arabs - as well as between Muslims and Christians – to blood feuds, which put innocent people in the line of fire just because of their family affiliation. But the overriding current of the films pulses with the lure of drugs: as a source of crime, as an economic outlet, as ultimately, a path toward destruction.

Missing context, says critic

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