For the third time in a row, an Israeli film has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Unlike "Beaufort" and "Waltz With Bashir", this film has nothing to do with the First Lebanon War, though it does touch on Jewish-Arab relations. "Ajami", which I have not yet seen, tells the story of people who live in Ajami, a mostly-Arab neighborhood in Jaffa. It has an 86% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on seven critics' reviews [Update: As of Feb. 15, it has a 95% favorable rating among all critics, with 19 positive and just one negative review. Among Top Critics it has a 100% positive rating, based on six reviews].
"Ajami" is competing against “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” (Argentina), “The Milk of Sorrow” (Peru), “Un Prophète” (France) and “The White Ribbon” (Germany). I haven't seen any of these, either, but I understand that the French and German films are very good and are very tough competition. Then again, these last few years this category has provided surprises. Last year, there were two favorites to win, including "Waltz With Bashir", and neither of the two won. Maybe "Ajami" will be this year's dark horse.
Update (Feb. 15, 2010): I watched the film and loved it. It is very powerful, and the acting is excellent. Surpisingly, all the actors are amateurs, but it doesn't show. The movie might be a bit confusing at times, but that doesn't hurt the film. It is similar to the movie "Precious" in how cruel and relentless the protagonists' lives are and how little hope there is for the future.