Monday, November 17, 2008

Etz Limon (Lemon Tree)

This Eran Riklis film is quite beautiful to watch not only because the lemon trees field but also because smartly tells about politics between Palestinians and Israelis in the most unexpected and very human way that includes an intense romance between Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass) and her lawyer, all done basically with very expressive sights.

Based on a true story tells about a Palestinian widow, Salma Zadine that lives in the West Bank border with Israel and takes care of a lemon grove that his father planted 50 years ago which allows her to barely live from the produce. Her satisfying life is turned upside down when next to her in the Israeli side the Defense Minister moves into a new house and instantly her lemon grove becomes a security treat as terrorists can hide behind the trees. So, the military requests her to torn down all her lemon trees and what follows is a very smart and multifaceted drama with outstanding performance by Hiam Abbass as a very dignified, assertive and strong fighter against the system, as she goes up to the Israeli Supreme Court to not have her trees cut and the incident becomes international headlines.

But this fantastic story is more about the politics of conquered and conqueror, border sensitivities and the wall built to protect but that destroys the beauty of the region while civilization rapidly advances into serene and untouched lands; and about the fate to loneliness for a young 45-year-old widow that is not allowed by traditions to start her life again.

Some of us probably remember another remarkable Riklis film, The Syrian Bride, that told a very touching story with high production values. I mention Riklis earlier film because if you enjoy it prepare yourself for a highly better story outstandingly developed, greater performances and higher production values.

The movie has many accolades and honors and here are some of them: 6 nominations and a win for Hiam Abbass as Best Actress at the 2008 Awards of the Israeli Film Academy; the film won the Panorama Audience Award at the 2008 Berlinale, the Award to the European Film at the 2008 San Sebastian fest, the Silver Prize at the 2008 Yeveran fest, and Hiam Abbass won the Best Performance by an Actress at the 2008 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, is nominated for best European Actress at the 2008 EFA Awards, and Best Actress at the 2008 Osian’s Cinefan fest of Asian and Arab Cinema. All awards are truly deserved as this is an incredibly smart and fresh film about a subject that has been explored in many ways and I believe it’s hard to be able to tell it in a totally new way.

I highly recommend this movie to all that like Riklis films, outstanding Israeli cinema with a very compelling story and high production values. Then this is suited for adult audiences that want to see a good and multi-layered drama.

I was taken by the story, Abbass screen presence and performance; but for a war torn area with movies that I haven’t been able to sustain, this was an amazing and remarkable surprise that engaged me instantly and loved all the layers that were so successfully played in the story.


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