February 3, 2010, Updated September 24, 2012

The Israeli film Ajami was selected as one of the five nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar yesterday.

This is the third year in a row that Israel has received an Oscar nomination in this category, and Israel’s ninth nomination overall. However, no Israeli film has ever won the Best Foreign Film award.

Ajami, a drama about crime in the city of Jaffa, adjacent to Tel Aviv, was directed by Scandar Copti, an Israeli-Arab Christian, and Yaron Shani, an Israeli Jew. Copti, Shani and the rest of the movie’s cast and crew headed to a restaurant in Jaffa to celebrate the nomination after the announcement.

According to Jerusalem Post film critic Hannah Brown, the fact that Ajami received a nomination is a triumph for its young directors, both first-time filmmakers. They spent seven years making the film, which features a cast of almost all non-professionals, mainly from Jaffa. Its complex narrative involves the conflicts and alliances among Israeli Arabs and Jews, Arab Christians and Muslims, as well as West Bank Palestinians and Beduin.

Brown also calls the nomination “a triumph for Israel in a year in which prominent industry figures called for a boycott of a program of Israeli films at the Toronto Film Festival last fall” and writes that Ajami, “as a partnership between directors, producers and actors of different religions, points to the openness of Israeli society. It received some of its funding from the Israel Film Fund, which is government-supported.”

The Oscar winners will be announced at a ceremony on March 7 in Los Angeles.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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