Opening 2 Oct 2008
The 45-year old Palestinian widow Salama (Hiam Abbass) lives alone on her small farm. The trees, planted half a century ago by her father, provide a meagre livelihood. When the Israeli Defence Minister (Doron Tavory) moves into his new house opposite, her life takes an unexpected turn. The rash security forces decide that the lemon trees pose a threat to the Minister’s safety and proceed to take all the necessary measures to cut them down. They erect fences and a watch tower. The overzealous behaviour, hectic actions and paranoia seem ridiculous, but this is the Middle East on the green border of the Occupied Territories (West Bank).
To save her trees, quiet and gentle Salma starts a legal war against her new neighbour and asks the young and ambitious Palestinian lawyer Ziad (Ali Suliman) for help. A tender love affair develops between them, putting her under additional pressure from both sides, the Israeli and Palestinian. A change also takes place in the new house. Mira, the Defence Minister’s wife (Rona Lipaz-Michael), lonely and unhappy in her marriage, is drawn to the courageously fighting Salma, and feels estranged from her husband. An invisible bond develops between the two women.
The Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride) tells a moving story about people living in a land with ever changing and explosive situations, never imposing any one particular view and keeping to a light and casual tone. Things happen on both sides. There is no winner. The Defence Minister sadly looks against a three-metre high wall, safely blocking out the lemon trees. Throughout the film a sense of solitude and loneliness prevails as each person has to come to terms with his/her own situation in this multi-cultural land where peace is still fragile. Lemon Tree was first shown at the 2008 Berlinale and received the Panorama Audience Award. (Birgit Schrumpf)