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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Oscar nominated...Ajami


Ajami (2009) is a film about the living situation between Muslims and Christians living side by side with each other in Tel Aviv and their everyday struggles in this political/religious contentious hot spot. Ajami writers/directors Scandar Copti (Palestinian) and Yaron Shani (Israeli) sat on panel on January 10, 2010 and spoke with audiences about their seven year journey making their controversial film. When I asked about the details of their film’s production, Scandar replied: “Our co-producer went to festivals in the world and pitched the screenplays in film and screenplay markets. We were lucky to find Thanassis Karathanos, a German producer of Greek origins who liked the script. He then applied to two funds in Germany and then also got money from ZDF the German TV.” The film took seven years to make in total from concept to finish- almost four years to write script and near two years of editing. They used seven-hundred non actors and shot completely chronologically. Although they had a script, they kept it away from the actors, preferring them to adlib their situations and act as they experienced them chronologically scene by scene; they did this so the actors would actually believe and feel their roles. Scandar and Yaron feel that put in real situations, the actors made the dialogue better than it had been written. In essence, the script was used mainly for finding funds as well as a blue print for the directors only.

Ajami has a feeling of a documentary in its hard realism cinema-verite style, reminiscent of City of God (Brazil, 2002). It is a story about human conflicts, different perspectives, the tragedy between people behind borders and misunderstandings. Yaron said at the Q and A of the Palm Springs FF screening: “It is a film about the conflict but acceptance because when you blame others you don’t take responsibility for your own faults”. The film has proved a huge success in Israel winning Best Picture for the Israeli Film Academy along with several honorable mentions at international film festivals and an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film, 2010. In Israel, more than 200,000 people have seen it and it is the first Israeli film to bring Arabs into the cinema, overcoming their perpetual conflict for the sake of the film; it resulted in an experience where many Palestinians and Israelis could identify with each other for the first time when they hadn’t been able to before. Scandar said with a proud smile at the end of the Q and A: “Everyone said we couldn’t make the film and now we’re a success winning lots of awards.”

Written by Vanessa McMahon

see trailer here:


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