Ajami gets right to the tragic heart of the matter. Before the viewer knows what or whom he’s watching, a young boy is gunned down in the middle of a city street in broad daylight. Though a backstory is soon provided, the incident truly and crucially never makes sense. Revenge, recompense, clumsy justice, even apparently legitimate legal proceedings provide a measure of context and set the rest of the narrative in motion, but the brutal fact of the murder is never gotten over. Violence will return, again and again over the course of the film, but it is not to be justified by theoretical or political abstractions, and its impact is never softened. For all of its stories, characters, and perspectives, Ajami is essentially a sustained gaze into a widening, all-encompassing trap. Life is cheap, death is random, and no one is safe. Read Eric Hynes’s review of Ajami.