Salma, a Palestinian widow, has to stand up against her new neighbor, the Israeli Defense Minister, 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 are quick to declare that Salma's trees pose a threat to the Minister's safety and issue orders to uproot them. Together with Ziad Daud, 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, the Defense Minister's wife, who is trapped in her new home and in an unhappy life. Despite their differences and the borders between them the two women develop an invisible bond, while forbidden 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, in which all players find themselves alone in their struggle to survive.
Suha Arraf (writer); Eran Riklis (writer).
Hiam Abbass (Salma Zidane); Doron Tavory (Defense Minister Israel Navon); Ali Suliman (Ziad Daud); Rona Lipaz-Michael (Mira Navon); Tarik Kopty (Abu Hussam); Amos Lavi (Commander Jacob (as Amos Lavie)); Amnon Wolf (Leibowitz); Smadar Jaaron (Tamar Gera (as Smadar Yaaron)); Danny Leshman (Private Itamar aka Quickie); Hili Yalon (Sigi Navon). Please contact SFC to add other cast members and characters.
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The Beauty and Stupidity of Life in the 'Holy Land'
Mark Banks (United Kingdom)
This little story acts as a microcosm of the bigger story of the troubles in Israel and Palestine. Most importantly it highlights the ultimate futility of the current way of going about things with respect to achieving victory for either side of the conflict. 'Lemon Tree', with its charming Lemon groves and attractive cast members also highlights the way that beauty can so easily be destroyed through our own selfishness and stubborn ways. Hiam Abbass (as Salma) and Ali Suliman (as her lawyer Ziad) deliver performances strong enough to carry the film through: though Hiam's (as also to be seen in 'The Visitor') is surely the stronger; perhaps helped by the more developed writing of her character. If I have a few things that keep this from my top-100, they are: (1) a saddening absence of turning to God in their struggles (see 'Ushpizin' as a commendable example of this), (2) a lack of fully embracing the respective cultures; I would have liked to have felt I was gaining a little more insight as to what it's really like living their lives; and (3) a slightly bitter view of love - hence the title song "lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat". Lyrics aside, this is an otherwise beautiful song (performed by Mira Awad). Those few points aside, I still recommend watching 'Lemon Tree' and it makes a refreshing alternative to the fast-paced, guns-a-blazing Hollywood fare that too often fills our screens.