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.
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.