Directors’ Showcase / UK premiere

Lemon Tree

  • Eran Riklis /
  • Israel, Germany, France /
  • 2008 /
  • 106 mins

Hiam Abbass, Doron Tavory, Ali Suliman, Smadar Jaaron, Danny Leshman, Hili Yalon

Personal meets political, in a pertinent and beautifully played drama.

?Following the international success of The Syrian Bride in 2004, Eran Riklis revisits the subject of segregation in his native Israel. Once again, the threat of repression, conflict over land disputes and the impregnability of borders are filtered through the most human of stories. This time, he places the wonderful Hiam Abbass (see also The Visitor, p 78) at the centre of a real-life political storm. She plays Salma Zidane, a lonely Palestinian widow whose beloved lemon grove, on the border between Israel and The West Bank, becomes a threat to national security when the Israeli Defence Minister moves next door. Abbass is utterly compelling as the serene, self-sufficient Salma, who displays a steely determination that leads her all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court in her crusade to save her trees. Mirroring Salma’s isolation, with varying degrees of despondency, are Mira Navon, the long-suffering wife of the Minister who looks on wordlessly as her husband demands the uprooting of Salma’s trees, Ziad Daud, the young lawyer who embraces Salma’s case as a cause célèbre and lastly, her father-figure Abu Hussam who has watched Salma grow up with the trees she now so staunchly defends. With a lightness of touch and a nod to the occasional chink of comedy in the political quagmire, Riklis refuses to evangelise, placing the focus not upon the rights or wrongs of either side but more upon the invisible chains of history, religion and man’s inability to communicate with his enemies. The integrity of his characters, the assuredness of his direction and his ability to focus so succinctly upon the details that make any situation political are what make Lemon Tree so fulfilling. Riklis sees politics in everything – and his ability to translate this into the most appealing and universal of narratives is the key to his expertise as a director.

2008 Archive

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