Lemon Treeby Nicolas Rapold
The border dispute in Lemon Tree feels instantly familiar, and, indeed, Israeli director Eran Riklis' last drama, The Syrian Bride, also hinged on absurdities and indignities. West Bank widow Salma (Hiam Abbass) is minding her own boundary-abutting business — namely, a lemon grove — when Israeli Defense Minister Navon (Doron Tavory) moves in across the way. When his guards huff that the trees could become terrorist hiding places, fences and a watchtower are noisily erected, and the stage is set for the schematic face-off. Co-written by Riklis and journalist-documentarian Suha Arraf, the story touches on Salma's fortitude, Navon's hypocritical bluster, his wife's tacit respect for their neighbor, and media attention. Parallels abound, but the direction is stubbornly flat-footed. Salma's day in the Israeli Supreme Court leans the film into the "We were here first" allegory that the filmmakers had, up until then, been tamping down with lighter moments.