Friday, May 29, 2009

Lemon Tree (Rhoades)

“Lemon Tree” Reflects Division in Middle East

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

“Lemon Tree” – a new film playing at the Tropic Cinema – ends with a rendition of that old song: “Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”

However, the story might best be described as bittersweet. As one of the characters observes, “It appears that only American movies have a happy ending.”

Based on true events, this sub-titled film could’ve been called the War of the Lemons, for it tells us about a conflict of wills between a modest Palestinian woman and the Israeli Minister of Defense over lemons.

Seems the Defense Minister (played with steely determination by Doron Tavory) has built a lovely home near the West Bank border, with only a lemon grove separating him from his Arab neighbor, a widow named Salma Zidane (the part performed with great resolve by Hiam Abbass).

Salma reveres the lemon grove, planted by her father and nurtured by her late husband. But to the Minister it’s merely a security risk, trees that might allow Palestinian snipers to sneak close enough to the Minister’s house for a shot at him.

When chain-link fences go up, and the Palestinian woman can no longer tend her lemon trees, she hires a lawyer (Ali Saliman) to take the matter before the Israeli Supreme Court.
The situation triggers international publicity, the kind that has the Israeli Prime Minister hopping mad and makes the Minister of Defense all the more determined to chop down the trees.

Standing in the middle, as figuratively as the trees themselves, is the Defense Minister’s sad wife (Rona Lipaz-Michael). Trapped both in her new home and a passionless marriage, she seems to empathize with her beleaguered neighbor.

As the Minister is about to learn, you can win a battle and lose a war.

Although “Lemon Tree” (“Etz Limon” in Hebrew) met with lukewarm reviews in Israel, Hiam Abbass won the Israeli Film Academy’s Best Actress award for this film

Directed and co-written by Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride, Cup Final), “Lemon Tree” is an allegory for the deadlock between Israel and Palestine. The message is simplistic: Despite people’s differences, things might turn out better if they could just talk to each other.
[from Solares Hill]

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