Lemon Tree

“We are born with the capacity for empathy. An ability to recognize emotions transcends race, culture, nationality, class, gender, and age” says Mary Gordon.

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‘Empathy’ was the foremost thought that struck me when I saw this beautiful Israeli movie.Lemon Tree is a 2008 movie directed by Eran Riklis.The movie is set in West Bank,a part of the Israeli occupied territory -as classified by the UN.A land-locked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, it has perpetually witnessed upheavals and finally was occupied by Israel following a six day war in 1967.Ensuing the military occupation, Israeli settlements in West Bank comprised a sizable population in an area predominantly dominated by Palestinian Arabs.

It is in this combustible landscape that two women’s lives intertwine – a Palestinian Arab widow and a Jewish Israeli woman married to the Israeli defense minister. Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass) is a middle-aged Palestinian Arab widow who lives alone with limited financial support from her three children. Her life revolves around nurturing her small lemon tree orchard from which she manages to derive a meager income.Her simple life is unsettled when an Israeli defense minister moves in as her neighbor.Barbed wires, tall check posts and round-the- clock security men invade her life and peace. But she finds her life careening, when the orders come in to uproot her beloved lemon trees,as a security measure to deter any armed attack on the defense minister’s house. Salma, a woman brought up in a strict patriarchal society, refuses to be cowed down and decides to take on the Israeli government to save her lemon trees.The story is about her determined struggle to get justice.
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When she hires a young lawyer – Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman) to fight for her, long forgotten emotions resurface. The story is also about loneliness and desires.

Mira Navon (Rona Lipaz-Michael), the Israeli defense minister’s wife is witness to Salma’s struggles to save her trees. A compassionate woman, Mira is moved by her plight and empathizes with her.And in the process,she can no longer ignore her husband’s glaring hypocrisies and shortcomings. She doggedly sticks to the role of a dutiful wife but she can no longer cast aside the growing loneliness within her. Mira and Salma – two women who can’t even communicate with each other. There are language,nationality and history barriers, but they reach out to each other. In a human bond, which is devoid of all requirements of such frivolities.Two women, who struggle in their own way to break the molds society has set for them.Both choosing to revolt in their own way. There are no winners or losers. There is only a sense of completion.
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It is a simple movie – brilliantly directed, poignant and depicts a plethora of subtle hues of the life, times and people involved.Hiam Abbass has acted exceptionally well and in several instances her face emotes far better than any verbal dialogues possibly could.Being a widow in a society, where social mores are rigidly imposed is also depicted through some well chosen shots.
Eran Riklis deals with the movie in a largely apolitical fashion focusing on people and relationships rather than on the conflict. The film did come in from criticism as it was said to be pro-Palestine and portrayed the Israelis, who wield more military power, as abusive and arrogant. Nevertheless, it went on to win several awards in Berlin Film Festival and Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

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37 thoughts on “Lemon Tree

  1. I’m even more intrigued about this now. One of my friends had mentioned that I should watch this, and even said “it’s a poignant version of the trouble in the West Bank”. Now, having read your review, I think I want to watch it more.
    PS : Never knew you were an off-beat movie buff. Okay, off-beat might be wrong word to use, but i mean non-commercial stuff

    1. Thanks Sid ! Definitely its worth a watch and there’s a lot of takeaway. Dont want to slot myself as an ‘off-beat’ movie buff.. but yes, I do like to watch as and when I get a chance 🙂

  2. chsuresh63

    THAT is what everything in the world comes down to – the WAY people interact with each other and the empathy that they show. Looks like a lovely movie

  3. As it happens, your fine review is a topical piece. The deftly woven movie does seem to have captured a range of emotions, and friendships in unlikely quarters. Perhaps I’ll see it sometime if I manage to get hold on it somewhere.

    1. Yes, definitely in the news everyday and every piece is heart wrenching. I keep wondering why we cant find a better solution. Yes Uma, do watch it whenever you get a chance.

  4. Hemachandran.

    Excellent write up about the movie,Asha. You have thrown more light to reveal the beauty of the movie.
    Uncle and Aunty

  5. The husband it seems has watched this movie as he was mentioning this sometime back. I’ll look for it. Looks like one of my kinds. Your review makes me want to watch it right away. One such Indian movie is Dor by Nagesh Kukunoor. Simple yet powerful.

    This shows that we have similar taste. Glad to have connected. 🙂

  6. This sounds extremely good.. I must watch this, please tell me why we cant make such thoughtful movies?

    Your review was very nice, i am sure it must have done justice to the movie.. because this line resonates with the overall story that you have narrated here-
    “There are no winners or losers. There is only a sense of completion.”

    1. Thanks Seeta. Yes, I wonder too.. but then probably we don’t know about all of them..coz they never get into the public limelight.
      Yes, the completion bit hit me. Isn’t it true that many times, we derive satisfaction from having done the right thing irrespective of the consequences of the action.

  7. indrani

    I think it is the kind of movie one will like to review on. The kind of bollywood stuffs that are being released I can never never do a review on them.
    The story line that you described got me interested, hope to see it soon.

    1. Thanks Uma 🙂 Am glad it could interest you enough to google. When I watch these movies, I realize I am not so evolved to actually ‘review’ them, but I can definitely document my experience of watching the movie, which is what I strove to do 🙂

  8. I have to watch it now. Will check if it is on Netflix. It reminds me of a book which shows a similar struggle, sorry can’t recall the title. I hope you have seen Erin Brockovich and Water, two of my personal favorites with strong female lead.

    Thanks for sharing this and for your lovely narration.

  9. The Fool

    Seems like an interesting theme. Will surely pick it up when I am in a mood for something serious. Your reviews really capture the essence of the movies. By the way I had left a comment on your other movie review as well. Somehow it seems to have disappeared.

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