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This story takes place in 1982, and is about the young boy, Fahed
(Abdallah El Akal), whose family has suffered a lot because of the war
in Beirut. One day, an Israeli fighter pilot, Yoni (Stephen Dorff), is
captured by the local forces, and Fahed sees and opportunity to free
the pilot, so he can take him back to his former home, where his father
wanted to plant the family's olive-tree, but never had the chance to do
so, because of the war.
At first, the two are mortal enemies, only working together because they need each other to reach their individual goals: Fahed wants to return back to his old family home, and Yoni wants to escape from prison, where he is bound to be tortured and interrogated, before he is used politically to exchange prisoners from the Israelis.
But along the way, the two form a tight friendship, where they both save each others lives on numerous occasions, until they (hopefully) reach their goals. It just goes to show, that even during the worst situations, friendships can arise when you are able to look past ones differences, and instead focus on common interests and dreams.
This is the newest movie from director Eran Riklis (Etz Limon, The Syrian Bride), and he still manages to make very interesting movies on highly debated subjects about the situation in Israel and the middle east in general. The acting from the leading actors is very impressive as well, especially from the young El Akal, who should have a long career ahead of him. It is also a quite interesting turn from the otherwise rather mainstream actor, Stephen Dorff, who most people probably know best from action-films like "Blade", "Public Enemies" and "Felon".
A highly recommended film, which also can be used for educational purposes. 8/10.
Zaytoun (2012) is an Israeli film directed by Eran Riklis. Abdallah El
Akal stars as Fahed, a Palestinian adolescent who lives in a camp in
Lebanon. The American Actor Stephen Dorff is the Israeli fighter pilot
Yoni, who is captured by the PLO when his plane is shot down.
The two make common cause when their goals come together. Yoni wants to escape and return to his unit in Israel. Fahed wants Yoni to take him to Palestine. When he gets to Palestine, he wants to plant an olive tree that the family has kept alive in the hope that they can return to their home and replant it.
The basic plot is not new. We saw it over 50 years ago when Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis starred in the 1958 movie "The Defiant Ones." Poitier and Curtis--natural enemies--are literally chained together. El Akal and Dorff are symbolically chained together, but the concept is the same. Can two people from different camps, who dislike and distrust each other, work together to achieve something important to both of them? Can the wall of hatred that separates them be weakened or even taken down?
Although the plot isn't new, the movie is still spellbinding. The actors are both excellent, and the settings look and feel real. The story requires some suspension of disbelief, but the gritty, authentic atmosphere, as well as the interaction between the pilot and the boy, worked for me.
We saw this movie at the Little Theatre, as part of the first-rate Rochester Jewish Film Festival. It will work well enough on DVD, but seeing it on the large screen would be better. For some reason, Zaytoun carries a dismal 6.2 rating on IMDb. This doesn't make sense to me--it's a much better film than that. Find it and see it!
Well intended small storied movie with backdrop of war between Israel
and Lebanon. Well cast and shot in exotic places. From the Hollywood
actor of 'Brake' fame and the director of 'Lemon Tree' joined hands
together for this project. A couple of years ago I saw 'Lemon Tree',
this director is really a master rendering movies with complicated
theme. From characters to concept and emotions it was well balanced.
The second half is what gives more depth in human emotions than the
conflict between two people. Definitely it is not a masterpiece, but
where it takes place and what it deals were much reasonable to praise.
It is set in 1982 in war torn Lebanon. An Israeli pilot Yoni, who crash land in Beirut is taken captive by Palestine Liberation Organization. There he meets a 12 year old boy Fahed whose father was recently killed in an Israeli air strike. He knows that he's not him, but the boy raged with full of anger to take revenge. For the reason he must give up it and should cope with the prisoner to fulfil his father's wish. So they make a deal before teaming up and try to escape from there. The rest of the story is a journey that happens on the road to their freedom.
The title represents an olive plant that carried all the time by the boy in the movie. As it an Arabic title of an Israeli movie, various languages spoken throughout. For me everything was just same because I was depended on a subtitle. The movie won my heart for the reason that the main two characters considered as enemies to each other, but the time being they begin to understand. Theirs journey on a dangerous path against all the human created boundary was really touched me. Better than I expected, kinda partially rare movie should be recognised in vastly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Zaytoun is the newest film by Israeli director Eran Riklis, easily one
of the most significant directors these days when it comes to depicting
Israeli characters (and like here also occasionally Palestinean
influence). I watched his movie Playoff earlier this year. It's already
from 2011, but it took so long to get here and I liked that one quite a
bit mostly thanks to Danny Huston very fine portrayal, so I was curious
about Riklis' newest work. "Zaytoun" centers around an Israeli soldier
taken into captivity by Palestinians and how his relationship to a
young boy, one of his captors, changes both their lives.
The soldier is played by known Hollywood actor Stephen Dorff and the boy is played by Abdallah El Akal, a talented child actor with quite an impressive body of work for a 15-year-old. His character here is initially an Israeli-hating mini-terrorist participating willingly in the psychological torture that is exacted on Dorff's character. When not much later, however, his close friend is killed and he sees the Israeli soldier show compassion, he starts questioning his ideals. That is certainly a bit of an understatement as he almost makes a 180 and decides to flee with the Israeli. This was one of the moments I couldn't fully understand. Another was when the Israeli soldier is hurt by a bullet and looks almost like he's about to die, the little boy out of nowhere performs a difficult surgery and only hours later the Israeli soldier is physically great again although he looked earlier like he'll at least need a week of rest in a hospital. There's certainly flaws in the script here and there and you could probably still find some more, but as a whole it's nonetheless, especially since the exquisite acting an interesting movie with historic significance and occasionally also a couple moments that make you smile, mostly in the interaction between the boy and the man. An obvious attempt at humor was the greedy taxi driver who enjoys listening to Bee Gees. They clearly tried with him some comic relief from the heavy material, but I didn't really like him at all and he also didn't make me laugh. Of course, there's also very shocking stuff, like that scene where the woman is shot while lying on the ground. You could certainly argue that it had no relevance to the story whatsoever, but was just there for shock value. Or you could argue that these things really happen and happen randomly which justifies their inclusion. I personally was moved a lot by it and it was the only time my eyes got kinda wet, especially as this may also have been the fate of the little boy's mother and all he still has from her is that photo.
In contrast to the taxi driver, there were, however, supporting players I liked. They all didn't have too much screen time as probably 90% of the film were the soldier and the little boy, but I enjoyed the boy's grandpa in the few scenes he had even if he didn't talk. He had a very warm presence. And so did the female UN worker played by Alice Taglioni. All in all, the film is certainly worth a watch if you can take it for what it is. Don't expect any great solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict or any huge impact on the peace process only because it's two people from the opposite sites bonding. Take it for an entertaining slightly under two hours with some quality moments in terms of drama, humor and really just two people making a connection and you may like it. After all, terrorism-related road movies are a bit of a rarity.
Eran Riklis likes stories in which a long, picturesque trip is paralleled by an inner journey of discovering the past, or the self. In Zeytoun, the trip is from Beirut across the border into Israel, and although I'm an Israeli who's never been to Lebanon, an aerial stock shot or two of Beirut was enough to sell me on the Lebaneseness of the locations seen in the first part of the movie, which were actually well-chosen sites in Israel. Unlike another viewer here on IMDb, I had little trouble accepting Stephen Dorff as an Israeli. Israelis come in all colors and sizes. Granted, his English was too good, but so was the Arab kid's. A brief sequence showing kids learning English verbs at school didn't really solve the problem. One makes allowances, though, when the visuals look realistic and the situation depicted is compelling, as here. My problem, and perhaps the problem of the Israeli public (which did not flock to see this movie), was that the audience is invited, a bit heavy-handedly, to sympathize with the Arab family's desire for repatriation to Israel without any balanced mention of the context in which such families found themselves outside Israel in the first place.
It's possible for one decision to derail a movie completely, one choice
by someone involved in a film that just is inherently wrong. These
decisions could be something small like a musical score, costume
design, cinematographer or in Eran Riklis's 2012 film Zaytoun something
big like a miscast actor in the form of the seriously un-Israeli Yoni
In a story that totally hinges on the believability and likability of its two leads, Zaytoun fails miserably. Concerning the young Palestinian boy Fahed who we are asked to root for and journey along with, actor Abdallah El Akal does a horrible job with his boy acting not the right side of enduring or not the comical side of rebel. It's a difficult feat to have a child actor take lead in a film and make it work and Riklis can't achieve the feat here. With Fahed such an unlikeable and uninteresting glue to the film all hope is rested onto Hollywood B list extraordinaire Stephen Dorff to move the picture forward but in a horrible misjudgement of casting he is doomed before a single frame was even shot with the plausibility of him pulling off being an Israeli so impossible that it's hard to even fathom why a born and breed Israeli could not of done the job and done it better. It's not that Dorff is bad perse in his acting just non-believable in his role.
With the failings of the films leads other elements of the film do not help its causes with a story that sadly can't shake the dust of mediocrity and a sense of disbelief while Riklis as a director can't add much to proceedings other than a nice opening shot and some small bursts of directional creativity. With a script overhaul, a smarter sense of direction and better cast actors you do get the sense that somewhere inside this supposed adventure/life affirming tale is a good film.
I would be confident in saying that not many have heard of this film and it's not hard to see why. With painfully few things within Zaytoun worth recommending and with a cliché story it's easy to see why this one sunk like a stone even with some advanced hype that suggested awards and box office glory. A miss-step for all involved.
1 very far from Israeli actors out of 5
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