Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lemon Tree

No one wins.

In a film that evenhandedly attempts to depict the gray area in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Salma's 50 year old lemon tree grove which her father planted is deemed a security threat to the new Israeli Defense Minister and must be cut down. Salma, a poor Palestinian widow, is stoically and obstinately determined not to let that happen.

All of the major players are portrayed sympathetically and there is no black and white.

Interspersed amongst the ambiguity are moments of light and joy but always there exists the overarching atmosphere of volatility.

I was struck by Salma's determination in the face of the paternalistic society where the men of her village feel perfectly comfortable in obliquely threatening violence when, in their eyes, her actions appear to be dishonoring her late husband. His memory is more important than her happiness.

Salma finds an unlikely ally in Mira, the defense minister's unhappy wife who struggles with her own unintentional role in Salma's plight.

From the movie's official website:

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 security 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.

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