8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
painful personal journeys and microcosm of the Israeli dilemma,
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This review is from: Lemon Tree (2008) [DVD] (DVD)
This is a wonderful drama that raises a personal issue to the level of telling the story of a nation. On one side, there is a beautiful Palestinian widow, who runs a lemon grove on the border of the occupied territories. She is modest, not at all political, and yet has a quiet determination and natural charisma. On the other side, the newly installed Minister of Defense for Israel moves into a house next to the lemon grove, bringing a security apparatus and personal power to the remote area. Suddenly, the lemon grove is called a security threat and he wants it cut down, in accordance with the secret service officers who are assigned to protect him. What ensues is a legal battle that becomes a political cause celebre.
Many viewers have criticized the film as anti-Israeli, but I disagree with that judgment on a number of levels. First, there are a number of full-blooded characters on the Israeli side, who struggle with what is happening. In particular the Minister's wife: she sees the situation, yet does not know what exactly she might do and struggles with it in spite of her husband's insensitivity. When she talks to a reporter, her actions lead to unforeseen consequences, which highlight many aspects of Israel's political system yet make no definitive statement and offers no unambiguous message. In my view, this is very much like what might happen in real life. Second, the Palestinian characters are also not at all simple: some are good, some not, and many are normal people trying to get through the day. While the woman is certainly a victim, there is nothing maudlin or tendentious about her struggle: it is realistic and she faces terrible odds. There is also a lawyer of good motives but questionable behavior and nosy, conservative neighbors. Third, and most importantly, there is a vital subtext to the story. No matter what you can say about the difficulties and injustices that Palestinians face, Israeli democracy is still functioning: the protagonists can seek legal redress and due process, the press is independent, and there is no outright repression of their actions. Indeed, the Minister is embarrassed that people ask him if he is "afraid of lemons".
My whole family watched this and we were utterly riveted from the opening scene. It is an excellent vehicle to stimulate discussion. Warmly recommended.