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Zaytoun - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ISRAELI filmmaker Eran Riklis has proved a past master at examining complicated political stories through a very human eye.

And just as he did with Lemon Tree, he re-considers the Israel-Palestine conflict in an intelligent, even thought-provoking fashion with Zaytoun.

On this occasion, events take place against the backdrop of war-ravaged Beirut in 1982 as a newly orphaned teenager, Fahed (Abdallah El Akal) comes to forge an unlikely friendship with a freshly captured Israeli pilot, Yoni (Stephen Dorff).

At first, they despise each other but as each sees the other’s humanity their subsequent journey, in the form of a road movie that takes Fahed beyond the Israeli border in order to plant a tree in his father’s memory, changes both of them.

Riklis has candidly stated that Zaytoun (the Israeli term for olive) is not a banner film for either side. Rather, it’s a people story that’s more about hope than anything else.

As such, there is an optimism to the story that makes it all the more likeable even if elements of Nader Rizq’s script occasionally feel contrived to get this unlikely duo to their destination.

Riklis, for his part, succeeds in capturing the volatility and instability of life in Beirut, where bombs can shatter lives at any minute, while juxtaposing it with beautiful shots of the region’s stunning landscapes. It’s a pertinent reminder of war’s toll on the environment.

The director also draws strong performances from his two leads. Dorff impresses, complete with a convincing accent, but El Akal is the big revelation, displaying a maturity beyond his years as a formerly rebellious teenager who is forced both to take a greater responsibility for his actions as well as re-evaluate his world view.

The film, for its part, doesn’t shy away from the complexity of the emotions at play, or the politics either.

Zaytoun is therefore another quietly impressive film from an always interesting director.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 107mins
UK Release Date: December 26, 2012