LEMON TREE, THE
Salma (Hiam Abbass), a Palestinian widow, has to stand up against her new neighbour, the Israeli Defense Minister (Doron Tavory), when he moves into his new house opposite her lemon grove, on the green line border between Israel and the West Bank. The Israeli security forces declare that Salma's trees pose a risk to the Minister's safety (a potential hiding place) and issue orders to uproot them. Together with Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman), her young Palestinian lawyer, Salma goes all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court to try and save her trees. Her struggle raises the interest of Mira Navon (Rona Lipaz-Michael), the Defense minister's wife, who is somewhat trapped in her new home and in a lonely life. Despite their differences and the borders between them the two women develop an invisible bond, while ties grow stronger between Salma and Ziad. Salma's legal and personal journey lead her deep into the complex, dark and sometimes funny chaos of the ongoing struggle in the Middle East.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Like the fruit of the lemon tree, The Lemon Tree is an astringent film, but just as welcome to the palate, in the right context. The basic dramatic tension is clearly established, and the characters are well drawn, especially Salma, movingly played by the talented Hiam Abbass. Salma is a widow with three grown up children who've all left, scratching out a megre living from the lemons in the old lemon grove first tended by her father. The property is right on what is now a border between Israel and Palestinians living in the West Bank.
In the film's only moment of dramatic licence, the new Israeli Defence Minister (Doron Tavory) moves into the adjacent house - before the security people had assessed and cleared the lemon grove. But that aside, the screenplay deals with the conflict that arises between a peace loving Palestinian widow and the jumpy minders of an Israeli Minister. It doesn't surprise us that our sympathies are steered towards Salma, although to be fair, the film takes great pains to show the Minister's wife, Mira (Rona Lipaz-Michael), decidedly sympathising with Salma.
Mira's isolation and her crumbling marriage become a part of the drama, adding a layer to the film as it follows Salma's legal battle to save her trees. Another layer is developed as Salma's relationship with her young lawyer, Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman), becomes of interest to the elders in her community, who warn her off. These incursions into the culture provide a richer framework for what is ultimately a political story.
The story leaves us with a deep sadness about the ongoing conflict between Israel and her neighbours, and how that has poisoned their respective humanity.
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LEMON TREE, THE (G)
CAST: Hiam Abbass, Doron Tavory, Ali Suliman, Rona Lipaz-Michael, Tarik Kopty, Amos Lavie, Amnon Wolf, Smadar Yaaron, Danny Lashman
PRODUCER: Eran Riklis
DIRECTOR: Eran Riklis
SCRIPT: Eran Riklis, Suha Arraf
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rainer Klausmann
EDITOR: Tova Asher
MUSIC: Habib Shadah
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Miguel Markin
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide: October 9, 2008