Lemon Tree (2008)

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Released 5-Aug-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-Madman trailers x 4 (but not for this film)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 101:53
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Eran Riklis
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Hiam Abbass
Doron Tavory
Ali Suliman
Rona Lipaz-Michael
Tarik Kopty
Amos Lavi
Amnon Wolf
Smadar Jaaron
Danny Leshman
Hili Yalon
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Habib Shadah


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass) is a Palestinian widow living in the occupied West Bank. She makes a meagre living tending a grove of lemon trees originally planted by her father 40 years previously and selling the produce. Unfortunately, the lemon grove is right against the wire security fence that the Israeli government has built to separate the Palestinians and the new Israeli settlements and Salma’s life takes a turn for the worse when Israeli Defence Minister Israel Navon (Doron Tavory) and his wife Mira (Rona Lipaz-Michael) move into the house that abuts the lemon grove on the Israeli side. The Security Service guarding the minister deem the lemon grove to be a risk because terrorists could use its cover to get close to the minister’s home and family so the Israeli government orders the trees be pulled out.

     Although the government offers Salma compensation she decides to challenge the decision. The Palestinian Authority is dismissive, telling Salma they have more important issues to consider than her trees. She then approaches Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman), a young Palestinian lawyer who agrees to take her case to the Military Tribunal. Unfortunately, the tribunal rules against them, accepting the military’s view that the grove represents a grave and imminent danger to State Security. Even worse, the Tribunal bans Salma from entering the lemon grove, and orders the trees be fenced to keep her out. As the trees start to whither and die through lack of water, Salma takes the extraordinary step of appealing against the Tribunal’s decision to the Israeli Supreme Court. As both the Israeli and international press feature Salma’s fight against the all powerful state, the political and emotional stakes are raised. Salma will have her day in court, but will it save the trees and her livelihood?

     Lemon Tree is a fabulous, moving film that refuses to make easy judgements or take too obvious sides. There are no evil people here; the Defence Minister has sympathy for Salma’s plight but accepts the advice of the state security forces. A possible attack on the night of his housewarming party merely reinforces the judgement that his family are at risk. The Palestinians in authority come off no better; they provide no assistance or encouragement, and in fact urge Salma not to rock the boat. When Salma refuses, they put pressure on her and veiled threats are made about her “relationship” with Ziad. It is left to Israeli reporter Tamar (Smadar Yaaron) and, more surprisingly, Mira Navon to provide understanding and support for Salma’s struggle.

     As a film, Lemon Tree does place Salma’s struggle and fence within the wider context of the bigger and longer concrete fence Israel is building to separate Jews from Palestinians and the final scenes of the film are very poignant, showing the futility of what has gone before. Yet while the social and person impact of the fences are clearly shown, so is the openness of Israeli society that at least allows free access to the press and the court system (the Israeli Supreme Court even cooperated in the making of the film). And, if nothing else, the film shows that in a divided society, there can be no real winners.

     Lemon Tree is a powerful, moving and very topical film, anchored by excellent, natural performances from Hiam Abbass, Rona Lipaz-Michael and Ali Suliman although all the cast, down to the lonely soldier on watch in the tower over the groves (Danny Leshman), are very good. The film does not preach and reaches no trite conclusions, but shows the social, emotional and personal costs of a divided society in which there are no real winners. Lemon Tree is a beautiful and intelligent film that deserves to be seen.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Lemon Tree is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. The print is generally sharp with good detail and contrast. Blacks and shadow detail are also good. Colours in the exterior scenes are muted and natural but they do tend to vary in the interior sequences, especially at night where at different times they take on a greenish or yellowish tinge. Brightness and contrast occasionally vary, but I believe this was the filming, not the DVD authoring. I noticed no obvious film or film to video artefacts.

     Burnt in white English subtitles are in American English. I saw no grammatical or spelling errors.

     The layer change at 56:31 resulted in a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps, surround encoded. The dialogue is a mix of Arabic, Hebrew and English.

     This is a film primarily of dialogue that does not require a vibrant audio track. Nevertheless, this is an excellent track for what it is. Dialogue is clear and centred and the surrounds are used for ambience, music and rain and storm sounds. The subwoofer had nothing to do.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

    The score by Habib Shadah had an Arabic flavour but it was not overdone or intrusive. It provided excellent support for the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Madman Propaganda

     Trailers for other films from Madman. Included is Dogora (1:42), The Last Trapper (1:57), The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2:12) and In the Shadow of the Moon (2:28).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US version of the film has the theatrical trailer as an extra. Not really enough to recommend an import.

Summary

     Set in the West Bank, Lemon Tree is a powerful, moving and very topical film, anchored by excellent, natural performances. The film does not preach and reaches no trite conclusions, but shows the social, emotional and personal costs of a divided society in which there are no real winners.

     The DVD has good video and audio, and no extras other than trailers for other films, but there is not a better version elsewhere. This is a beautiful, intelligent film that deserves to be seen.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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