Lemon Tree

Posted by schnolis on May 9th, 2009 filed in Reviews

LEMON TREEA Palestinan woman Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass) owns a Lemon Orchard situated on the Israli border. The new Defense Minister Israel Navon (Doron Tavory) moves in right across the road from the grove and concludes the trees represeant a security problem. He orders the Lemon Trees uprooted, but Salma fights back in court. She lives off the fruit sales from the family estate after her husband died some 10 years before.

The story behind Lemon Tree is quite simple, but the details make it more than a David versus Goliath story. Salma decides to use the courts to argue her case, though, and enlists the help of a lawyer Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman) to fight this battle. As she spends more time with the younger Ziad, though, they become attracted to each other. She respects his ability to argue the case, and he admires her spirit and tenacity. Just when she finds something positive in her horrible situation, a family “friend” comes in to warn her to stop disrespecting the memory of her husband. It’s not enough that her people are being oppressed by a crushing military, but she is also a minority among her own people. The rules for her are different than those for men, and Salma is forced to quell her own emotions. Her hope evaporates immediately afterwards.

I know that my belief in gender equality is arbitrary, that it’s very likely I value it because it’s a direction that my own culture is headed. Still, I choose to believe in the potential of every person being able to determine for himself or herself some of life’s basic choices: who to love, how to be productive and employed, what to like, and how to be happy. I cannot be content so long as people are prevented from making their own choices because they live on the wrong side of a wall, read the wrong books, have the wrong color flesh or happen to be born with the wrong sex organs.

What I liked: A powerful story about culture and freedom, and how disenfranchised some of us are. Salma and Ziad’s budding relationship is torturous to watch knowing it will not flourish. There is so much wasted potential in our world, and Lemon Tree makes it abundantly clear we need to be doing more about it.

What I disliked: Some of the plot seems a little predictable. Also, some of the decisions by the neighbor, Mira, strike me as late in coming. She only attempts to be neighborly and see Salma after the grove has already been fenced off. And then when she finally decides to leave the Defense Minister, the grove has already been doomed by the court rulings.

Rating: 8 of 10

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