The Lemon Tree Movie by Eran Riklis

The Protagonist of the Lemon Tree Movie, Hiam Abbass
The Protagonist of the Lemon Tree Movie, Hiam Abbass

The Lemon Tree Movie (Etz Limon) of Israeli director Eran Riklis does not refer to the growers of this excellent and many-times irreplaceable citrus fruit.

Or, at least, it does not refer to the majority of Lemon Tree growers around the world, except to those who were unfortunate to be born in Palestine, to be Arabs, and to live and dwell under occupation.

Even worse: to be women and widows.

Eran Riklis – who also co-wrote the script – managed to create a multi-layered film based on a simple, unembellished narrative structure.

As simple and unembellished as the geopolitical and social landscapes of the Middle East.

As simple as the cinema at its best.

The Plot of Lemon Tree Movie

The deceased father of Palestinian Salma Zidane had created an orchard with Lemons. Without blaming himself or his Lemons, a few decades later, the price of the estate – the grove – have hit rock bottom.

The reason?

The estate had the unfortunate inspiration to find itself on the boundary that separates Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories.

And that fact would be relatively not so bad for Salma if the damage was only found in the sale value of its estate. Because since Salma was a widow, the Lemon grove was the only source of income for her, and she had never thought of selling it.

The really bad, the greatest evil, would be elsewhere, that would be right next to her: it would be the new neighbor, the Israel Minister of Defense along with the security forces.

The Minister, together with the security forces of the State of Israel, will immediately assume that the estate of the neighboring Lemons can become a base for terrorists, and therefore it must be immediately cleared – cutting down all the lemon trees.

But because the constitution of the State of Israel is bourgeois democracy rather than tyranny or apartheid (& Jekyll), for Salma one is the way: to bring proceedings before the Israeli court to to get justice.

Hiring the young lawyer Ziad Daud, with whom enters into a love affair, will take the case all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court.

… Will she get justice?

Lemon Tree Movie Trailer

(...) But in fact the story is inspired by what happens all the time. If it is not lemon trees, it is houses; if it is not houses, it is olive trees. It is how the system works (...)
Εράν Ρικλίς, ο Σκηνοθέτης & Συνσεναριογράφος της Ταινίας Η Λεμονιά
Eran Riklis
Director
The Protagonist of the Lemon Tree Movie, Hiam Abbass
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The Lemon Tree Movie

The Lemon Tree Movie & The Artistic Intentions

It is often the case that artistic work exceeds the artist’s intentions. Sometimes it seems to be over or undermining them. Either way, the relative or absolute autonomy of the artistic work from the intentions of its creator, is a commonplace for art.

Eran Riklis, responding to a question by journalist Frederikke Lett in an interview he has delivered on the official website of the European Film Academy, will unequivocally state that his film is not a political one.

Having the creator highly appreciated, we get his statement as truly and we consider that he is not joking with us. But simply, and in this case, the work itself refutes the artist, by putting in view some of the unseen, even for him who created it, sides.

How does it refute him?

But with clear cinematic terms: if Salma’s new neighbor was Spielberg’s Extraterrestrial, then we would agree with the filmmaker and co-screenwriter of Lemon Tree Movie.

It would rather be a science fiction film, which, in an impeccable visual, scriptural and cinematic way, raises the question of the existence of extraterrestrial life.

But the goddamn new neighbor of Salma, is not the ET, but the Minister of Defense of the state of Israel. What does it mean cinematically?

Obviously it means the Extraterrestrials live among us.

The Lemon Tree Movie

The Political Dimension of the Lemon Tree Movie

The Lemon Tree Movie is a political film with the wider interpretation of the term. The cause, source, and cause of its creation was a real fact: Shaul Mofaz (שאול מופז), Israeli Defense Minister in Ariel Sharon’s government (אֲרִיאֵל שָׁרוֹן), built in 2005 a fortified house on the green line (no, the term has nothing to do with ecology), in the West Bank’s Kokhav Ya’ir (כּוֹכַב יָאִיר צוּר יִגְאָל / كوخاف يئير) region.

With its moving to the new house, begins also the systematic cutting of the Lemon, Orange and Mandarin trees of the adjacent estate, which belonged to the lucky Palestine widow  Zuhriyya Hasan Murshid.

The lucky in all respects widow has exhausted all legal remedies to get justice, taking the case to the to the Israeli Supreme Court.

For those who have not seen the film, we will not reveal here the final judgment of the Supreme Court, since it is the culmination of it.

However, we can reveal what Israeli newspaper Haaretz (הָאָרֶץ) wrote on January 1, 2006, about this fabulous and brilliant political man Shaul Mofaz.

The Lemon Tree Movie

Salma with the Young Lawyer Ziad & the Farmhand in the Lemon Orchard
Salma with the Young Lawyer Ziad & the Farmhand in the Lemon Orchard

The Power of Extraterrestrials & Haaretz

Well, this fabulous and brilliant political man Shaul Mofaz, had an inexplicable inclination to denounce him about cutting fruit trees. In fact, not all fruit trees, but only those who incidentally belonged to Palestinians.

This time it was not for citrus but for olive trees.

Before Haaretz got on his case, an obvius distress Shaul Mofaz had announced his decision, to appoint a committee to look not into the possibility of extraterrestrial life existence, but about those which are responsible for the methodical uprooting of Palestinians olive trees.

The Haaretz newspaper does not mince words and replies:(…) But the act of appointing a committee is nothing but an evasion of responsibility and a continuation of the debacle that has been going on for almost a year in an area of which Mofaz himself is in charge. If any committee needs to be appointed, then it ought to be a committee to investigate how Mofaz permitted outlaws to uproot thousands of olive trees since April, in areas under the control of the Israel Defense Forces, and how it is possible that they don’t have“the slightest lead,” as he says, into finding the outlaws‘.

… But are there Extraterrestrials outlaws (ministers)?

The Lemon Tree Movie

The Social Dimension of Lemon Tree Movie

In Lemon Tree Movie, the main character is certainly Salma. Walking in the fifth decade of her life, she has a landed immigrant son in the US, in Washington, the crushing weight of being a widow, and meager means.

In a paradoxical yet successful cinematic way, minister’s wife Mira is the mirror of her. Not in terms of living standards, nor in terms of social status or, obviously, in origin, but in something fundamentally different: both Mira and Salma are the victims of the most heinous type of authority, the Patriarchy.

The Patriarchal Figure

The Patriarchal society in its various manifestations exercises its veiled or blatant violence to all men, women and children.

Patriarchy is based on the ownership and oppression of the expression of sexual instinct. The societies it builds are by definition authoritarian, aggressive and oppressive – others more, others less, others obvious and others obscured.

In the occupied Palestinian territories, the Patriarchy hadn’t seen occupation. Absolute freely exercises its authority first and foremost over women.

When Salma dares (?) to create a love affair with the younger Ziad, the Patriarch, in the figure of her Palestinian neighbor, appears: not only scolds Salma, but also humiliates her, saying she is disrespecting the memory of her dead husband.

The neighbor of Salma is a child of another mother and another father, who both have suffered the patriarchal cruelty, both have assimilated it and both have reproduced it by inheriting it to the next generation.

On the opposite side, Mira, in the wake of Salma’s struggle and stubbornness, realizes her own situation – her unbearable weight of living with a hypocrite mate, bilingual, arrogant, in a finished marriage.

When Mira at a press conference expresses her sincere sympathy for Salma, with whom she has never met, the Patriarch appears again in the face of the minister: in a blatant manner she asks her to withdraw – in other words, forbids her to have her point of view.

This Patriarch is called cinematic Israeli Navon, where Navon (נָבוֹן) in Hebrew means ‘smart, intelligent, and wise‘.

A Patriarch so smart and wise, who can not even go to the toilet without his armed guard.

The Lemon Tree Movie

A Poster of the Lemon Tree Movie
A Poster of the Lemon Tree Movie

The Agricultural Dimension of Lemon Tree Film

The lemon grove, whichever way someone look at it , is not in the most attractive agrotouristic area of the world. Moreover, it is far away from the most fertile location. However, the lemon grove has been in existence since 1955 – the year when Salma’s father planted the trees.

The Lemon Tree Film is, among other things, a comment on the agricultural reality of the wider region and its myths.

Indeed, the highly advanced Israeli agricultural technology is often said to have managed to green the desert.

Although this desert lastly was not so deserted.

The Lemon Tree Movie

The Hybrid or A Wholesome Intermedio

The botanical name of Lemon is Citrus × limon. It is a hybrid, which has been cultivated since ancient times, and which is a crossing of Citrus medica (Citron) with Citrus reticulata (Mandarin Orange).

While for the Lemon tree and its cultivation will be referenced in a future tribute, we will stand here only in the amazing coincidence of the title and the theme of Lemon Tree Movie with the concept of Hubris.

Hybrid & Hubris

The word hybrid originates from Ancient Greek ‘ὕβρις‘. Where ‘ὕβρις‘ for the Ancient Greeks meant the brutal, unscrupulous, stealthy and arrogant behavior of one, against others, the state and the divine law.

What does all this have to do with the movie?

As much as the Extraterrestrials.

The Bible

In the Bible, in Deuteronomy there is the following completely simple paragraph (Chapter 20, Section 19):

דברים כ:יט כִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ לְתָפְשָׂהּ לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו גַּרְזֶן כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר: כ:כ רַק עֵץ אֲשֶׁר תֵּדַע כִּי לֹא עֵץ מַאֲכָל הוּא אֹתוֹ תַשְׁחִית וְכָרָתָּ וּבָנִיתָ מָצוֹר עַל הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר הִוא עֹשָׂה עִמְּךָ מִלְחָמָה עַד רִדְתָּהּ:

The completely simple paragraph translates as:

When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city?

In other words, in the Bible there is an explicit command to Extraterrestrials, that even when they are in war, it is forbidden to cut the enemy trees.

Now, if the enemies are the trees (or as the trees), there is no prediction, command or reference in Bible.

In this case, there is no doubt that Extraterrestrials are completely free to do what they want.

The Lemon Tree Movie

The filmic Minister (Dorn Tavori) & his wife (Rona Lipaz-Michael)
The filmic Minister (Dorn Tavori) & his wife (Rona Lipaz-Michael)

The Cinematographic Dimension of the Lemon Tree Film

The Lemon Tree Movie is a masterpiece of cinematographic artwork. It deals with a difficult subject, in a sensitive, fragile, unpeaceful area, and manages to make the viewer sociable in a case which, in a film-creative way, ultimately concerns and him – regardless of color, race and religion, and to one degree, irrespective of even political beliefs.

The realistic baseline of the film does not exclude a lyrical aura: the daily struggle of man and sympathy can coincide, as in the face of the young Israeli soldier, who, when he realizes the presence of Salma, in her blocked and enclosed lemon grove, does not see in her an enemy, but a friend who has to save him from trouble.

The Lemon Tree Movie

The Contributors of the Lemon Tree Movie

Director Eran Riklis

Eran Riklis, the Director & Co-screenwriter of the Lemon Tree Movie
Eran Riklis, the Director & Co-screenwriter of the Lemon Tree Movie

The exquisite Erik Riklis (ערן ריקליס), director and co-screenwriter of the film, along with a solid thematic core, unfolds the narrative thread without scriptural crowns and filming tricks.

He directs with mastery the distinguished actors, who not only persuade but at times, it may be said that they are going out of the screen and walking their way into real life itself.

Eran Riklis was born in Israel and has directed, in addition to Lemon Tree (2008), some important films, including Cup Final (1991), The Syrian Bride (2004) and Dancing Arabs (2014), also known as A Borrowed Identity.

The Co-screenwriter Suha Arraf

Suha Arraf, the Co-screenwriter of the Lemon Tree Film
Suha Arraf, the Co-screenwriter of the Lemon Tree Film

Suha Arraf (سهى عراف), an Israeli citizen of Palestinian ancestry, is a screenwriter and director.

In the Lemon Tree Movie co-signs the screen, while this work is the second with Eran Riklis, after the also great film The Syrian Bride, where also they co-sign the screen.

Hiam Abbass

The Actress of the Lemon Tree Film, the Protagonist Hiam Abbass
The Actress of the Lemon Tree Film, the Protagonist Hiam Abbass

Hiam Abbass (هيام عباس) is Salma Zidane in Lemon Tree film. She was born in Israel by a Muslim Arab family and is an international actor, which also has directed two short films.

Among the films who has played included Munich (2005), directed by Steven Spielberg, Satin Rouge (2002), Haifa (1996), Paradise Now (2005), The Syrian Bride (2004), as well as the masterpiece The Visitor (2008), writed and directed by Tom McCarthy, starring the great American actor Richard Jenkins.

Ali Suliman

The Actor Ali Suliman Plays the Young Lawyer
The Actor Ali Suliman Plays the Young Lawyer

Ali Shuliman (علي سلیمان) acting Ziad Daud, the young lawyer in the Lemon Tree movie. Of Palestinian origin, is an actor and producer.

Among others he has played in films Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996), Paradise Now (2005), The Kingdom (2007), Body of Lies (2008), and The Looming Tower (2018).

Rona Liaz-Michael

Actress Rona LIpaz-Michael, the Minister's Wife in the Movie
Actress Rona LIpaz-Michael, the Minister's Wife in the Movie

Rona Lipaz-Michael (רונה ליפז-מיכאל) plays the role of Mira Navon, the wife of the minister in Lemon Tree movie.

Israeli in origin is an actor, and among the films he has participated in, are Hatsuya (2009), Dancing Arabs (2014) and Do not Forget Me (2017).

Doron Tavory

The Actor Doron Tavory, the Israeli Defense Minister in the Film
The Actor Doron Tavory, the Israeli Defense Minister in the Film

Doron Tavory (דורון תבורי) in Lemon Tree movie, plays the role of the minister. An Israeli in οrigins, he is an outstanding actor and translator, who has participated in numerous theatrical and film productions.

In the theater, among others, he has been played the Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet (1978), the Tartuffe of Moliere (1985) and the Lucky in Waiting for Godot (1984). In the cinema he has played among others in Past Life (2016), Machboim (1980) and Le’Heir et Ha’dov (2018) films.

The Lemon Tree Movie

Reception & Awards

The Lemon Tree movie was shown in many countries, with a relative success. According to a statement by its creator Eran Riklis, ‘In France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, the film did really well. In Israel, it was a flop.’

In Israel has fallen because it was considered to be essentially a propaganda film for the Palestinians.

And in Palestine?

And there it was a flop, but the cause was another: in the Gaza Strip there is not even a single cinema, while in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank there are only two, the Cinema City, which opened in Nablus in 2009 and the Palestine Tower, in Ramallah in 2014.

The Lemon Tree movie won the Panorama Audience Award at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival, while the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Brisbane, Australia, was awarded Hiam Abbass as the Best Performance by an Actress and Eran Riklis and Suha Arraf won the Best Screenplay award.

Hiam Abbass also won the Best Actress award of the Israeli Film Academy.

The Lemon Tree Movie

References

The References of the cinephile article, titled The Lemon Tree Movie (Etz Limon) by Eran Riklis, feature The Clash chamber music ensemble with its romantic composition Guns Of Brixton.

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THE CLASH - Guns Of Brixton
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  1. Chaudhuri, S. (2014). Cinema of the Dark Side: Atrocity and the Ethics of Film Spectatorship. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press.
  2. Field, S. (1986). Το Σενάριο, η Τέχνη και η Τεχνική [Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting]. Αθήνα: Κάλβος.
  3. Talmon, M., & Peleg, Y. (2011). Israeli Cinema: Identities in Motion. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

The Lemon Tree Movie

Salma with a Farmhand in the Lemon Orchard
Salma with a Farmhand in the Lemon Orchard

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