‘Ajami’ co-director: ‘I do not represent Israel’

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The co-director of the Academy Award-nominated movie "Ajami" said he does not represent Israel. 

Scandar Copti made the remarks just hours before the Oscars ceremony, where his film about Arab-Jewish and intra-Arab tensions in a mixed quarter of Jaffa was competing for the best foreign film title.

"Ajami” paints an unsparing picture of Arab-Jewish and intra-Arab tensions. Copti, a Christian Arab, co-directed the film with another young Israeli, Yaron Shani, who is Jewish.

“I am not the Israeli national team and I do not represent Israel,” Copti said in an interview on Israel’s Channel  2. “It is an extremely technical thing, that’s how it works in the Oscars. It says ‘Israel’ because the funding comes from Israel. There’s a Palestinian director, an Israeli director, Palestinian actors and Israeli actors. The film technically represents Israel, but I don’t represent Israel.”

The interview came a day after about 300 demonstrators gathered in the streets of Jaffa to protest against police violence.

Copti’s brothers Jeras and Tony allege that police used excessive force against them last month when they were arrested for trying to prevent police from taking some children in Jaffa into custody. The police said the children were hiding drugs; the Coptis say they were burying the body of a dog.

The brothers filed a complaint against police.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat criticized Copti’s remarks.

"The film ‘Ajami’ was produced and received an Oscar nomination thanks to funds from the State of Israel, which Scandar Copti now tries to renounce," Livnat said. "Without the state’s support, Copti would not be walking on the red carpet tonight."

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