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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Ajami [Blu-ray]


(Scandar Copti + Yaron Shani, 2009)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: ARTE

Video: Kino Video



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:05:35.653

Disc Size: 44,274,454,264 bytes

Feature Size: 33,008,474,112 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.91 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case inside cardboard slipcase

Release date: August 24th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio Arabic 3266 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3266 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), none



Ajami: the Story of the Actors (29:18 in HD!)

10 Deleted Scenes (23:07 in HD!)

• Trailer (1:43 in HD!)

Stills Gallery (24)





Description: An enormously important film A contemporary crime drama edged with Greek tragedy teems with life. --The Village Voice

This Academy Award nominated film is Shakespearian in its scope and themes - revenge, loyalty, hope and despair - AJAMI draws us into the lives of two brothers fearing assassination; a young refugee working illegally to cover his mother s medical expenses; a cop obsessed with finding his missing brother. Through this dramatic collision of different worlds, we witness cultural and religious tensions simmering beneath the surface and the tragic consequences of enemies living as neighbors. Recommended for those who enjoyed Crash or Traffic.



The Film:

A contemporary crime drama edged with Greek tragedy, Ajami is an untidy, despairing, oddly exhilarating joint venture by writer-directors Scandar Copti, an Israeli Arab, and Yaron Shani, an Israeli Jew. Though its unwieldy cast and multiple storylines might better lend themselves to a television series, the movie teems with life, energized by fierce formal ambitions that must have provoked cardiac arrest in its insurance underwriters, never mind any casual onlookers of the partially improvised location shoot in a rundown quarter of the Tel Aviv–adjacent city of Jaffa. The mostly non-pro cast is drawn from the neighborhood, a tinderbox where Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians from the occupied territories seeking work rub shoulders with volcanic unease.

Barely held together by chapter headings, the action switches dizzyingly between time, place, and point of view. The movie opens smack in the middle of its converging storylines with a mistaken drive-by shooting whose victim is an innocent boy working on a decrepit car. Indeed, almost all of the casualties piling up in Ajami are young, sucked willy-nilly into the fraying tempers of this inner-city area barely controlled by exhausted and demoralized Israeli police.

Excerpt from Ella Taylor at the Village Voice located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Ajami's visuals are less spectacular on Blu-ray than one might expect for a modern film but it appears to be an authentic representation of the production - and it is hard to ask more of a transfer. There is no discernable digital manipulations to heighten any aspect of the rendering. The image quality shows some grit and minor grain - a bit of noise in darker sequences. It is dual-layered with a healthy bitrate. Ajami's palette is dusty, brown, greenish, and mostly dull. This was either an intentional effect or the effect of a true appearance shot in locations such as Ajami District in Jaffa, Israel and Nablus, Palestine. It was shot on the HD 'Red Camera' and is predictably extremely clean - without damage or speckles. The Blu-ray won't 'wow' you with over-the-top visuals - but this was not the intent of Boaz Yehonatan Yaacov's cinematography.  The HD produces a bit of texture - which is beneficial but the value lies more in the stories - or rather the storytelling - and characters. This Blu-ray probably looks like the film Ajami did theatrically - exporting a realistic and unfettered look - and hopefully the screen captures will give you an idea of it's appearance on your system.














Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 in mostly Arabic and Hebrew at 3266 kbps is more than capable of supporting the film's audio. There is gunfire and violence but it never impacts with demonstrative bass - it, funnily enough, sounds less aggressive but punchy... real. Surround effects are limited. There is some traditional sounding music that has resonance if not sounding particularly crisp. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.



Extras :

Extras don't include a commentary which would have really benefited here I think but we do get a 1/2 hour 'Ajami: the Story of the Actors' in HD with input from the filmmakers and actors. We get a further sense of how much of the film is impromptu with scenes established from real life situations. There are also 10, less relevant, deleted scenes running 23-minutes (also in HD), a trailer and a stills gallery.



Ajami was a demanding and grim experience. It is a tense, emotional and often disturbingly violent film that requires a lot of attention to follow the characters. Yes, there is a kind of convergence ala 'Crash' or 'Powder Blue' - but this was somehow different. I will require a second viewing to make more definitive statements but it was indeed impacting and harrowing vérité filmmaking with a deft touch. It is definitely worth seeing - nominated for an Oscar for 'Best Foreign Language Film of the Year'. The Blu-ray is not going to produce any votes for 'best of 2010' but it is not poor by any stretch and a typical pricey Kino edition with a healthy, un-manipulated, transfer of a very worthy film. The DVD of this rather 'tough film' is only $4 less and the video and audio improvement will be worth the upgraded indulgence for many cinephiles.   

Gary Tooze

August 18th, 2010




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze








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