is a movie starring
Hiam Abbass, Rona Lipaz-Michael, and Ali Suliman.
The story of a Palestinian widow who must defend her lemontree field when a new Israeli Defense Minister moves next to her and threatens to have her lemon grove torn down.
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Salma Zidane, a widow, lives simply from her grove of lemon trees in the West Bank's occupied territory. The Israeli defense minister and his wife move next door; the Secret Service orders the trees removed for security. The stoic Salma seeks assistance from the Palestinian Authority (useless), Israeli army (dismissive), and a young attorney, Ziad Daud, who takes the case; this older client attracts him. While the courts deliberate, the Israelis fence her trees and prohibit her from entering the grove. As the trees wither, the defense minister's wife and, separately, an Israeli journalist, look on Salma with sympathy. In this allegory, does David stand a chance against Goliath?Written by
Etz Limon (2008) directed by Eran Riklis, was shown in the United States with the title "Lemon Tree." (Don't confuse the film with a popular novel that has the same title.) The plot of the story is simple enough. The Israeli defense minister moves into a home located right next to a lemon grove owned by a Palestinian woman. Israeli security agents decide that the grove presents a hazard to the minister and his wife, and declare that the lemon trees must be destroyed. The Palestinian woman fights the destruction of her livelihood and her legacy.
Although the basic plot of "Lemon Tree" is simple, the movie is complex. There are fascinating interactions between the woman--Salma Zidane, played by the incomparable Hiam Abbass--and her lawyer and her children. The defense minister has a edgy relationship with his wife. (His wife is basically a fair and caring woman, and isn't supportive of the grove's destruction, but she also likes being married to a powerful, charismatic public figure.) The defense minister is obviously very close to a beautiful young aide, and the movie suggests that they're having an affair.
Although the film is clearly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, all of the Palestinians aren't portrayed as perfect individuals. One local Palestinian leader doesn't suggest any course of action for Salma, but warns her not to accept compensation from the Israelis. Refusal to accept compensation probably makes sense as a political strategy. However, without compensation, what options are open to a widow whose sole livelihood is taken from her?
To me, the saddest part of the movie was the failure of Salma and the minister's wife Mira (Rona Lipaz-Michael) to ever meet face to face. On several occasions in the film they almost meet, but the meeting never actually takes place. Symbolically, that failure to communicate on a personal level represents the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. They are figuratively and literally unable to speak to each other, and therefore they can never move beyond stereotypes and hostility.
We saw this film at the excellent Rochester Jewish Film Festival. However, it would work well on the small screen. It's an extraordinary film, and definitely worth seeking out.
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