Palestinian widow Salma (Hiam Abbass) tends her lemon grove on the green line border between Israel and the West Bank, until Defence Minister Navon (Doron Tavory) moves into a smart house on the other side of the fence and the trees are deemed a security risk. In the ensuing fight to save them, Salma falls for handsome young lawyer Ziad (Ali Suliman) and stirs the compassion of Navon’s conflicted wife Mira (Rona Lipaz-Michael).
Winner of the Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival and brimming with top-notch performances – not least Abbass, who invests Salma with a soulful dignity – Lemon Tree is a must-see for 2008. Director Eran Riklis and Palestinian-Israeli co-writer Suha Arraf pull refreshingly few punches, whether portraying Navon’s self-important military bluster or the clumsy threats of Arab elders suspicious of Salma’s relationship with Ziad. As Ziad declares to Israeli journalists outside the courthouse, this is a classic David and Goliath tale, but one with striking contemporary resonances.