By Owen Gleiberman
Updated February 18, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

Emotionally mesmerizing. Set in the multiethnic city of Jaffa, this Academy Award nominee for Best ? Foreign Language Film is like an Israeli Amores Perros crossed with City of God. Using a nonprofessional cast, Ajami looks at the Middle East powder keg from both sides, weaving a time-fractured story of drug dealing, romance, and economic peril. As a shockingly unjust revenge murder sets off a cycle of fear, we feel how the violence of life in Israel has embedded itself in every interaction, even for those on the same side. A

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