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Israel’s Oscar-Nominated Ajami: Third Time a Charm?

For the third consecutive year, an Israeli film is nominated for an Oscar. This one looks promising for a win.

by
Stephanie L. Freid

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February 11, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Earlier this month, the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated the Israeli film Ajami as a contender for this year’s foreign language Oscar — putting Israel in the running for a third consecutive year.

What are the odds of that happening, particularly in light of the Toronto Film Festival boycott and similar calls for cultural boycotts of Israel?

Last year’s 1982 Lebanon war film, Waltz with Bashir, was predicted to take the Oscar for its original animation treatment. The year before, Beaufort — also centered on the 1982 Lebanon war — was a nominee.

But when I attended Israel’s version of the Oscars in September and watched as Ajami took top honors, I was certain the film would never make the Oscar grade. Too local. Too amateurish. Venice Film Festival winner Lebanon — yet another take on that war — seemed a more likely winning entry. But my knee-jerk opinion was based solely upon watching trailers, so on the heels of this month’s announcement I headed to a Tel Aviv theater to form a more educated opinion.

A day later I’m still processing the film, its implications, and the Pulp Fiction-style movie within a movie that so accurately portrays the intricacies and tenuous nature of life in this part of the world.

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