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TIFF Capsule Review: 'Zaytoun'

Photo of Jay A. Fernandez By Jay A. Fernandez | Indiewire September 10, 2012 at 11:39AM

This period adventure story revisits the days of the Lebanese Civil War and the early stages of the ill-fated Israeli incursion into Lebanon. It follows young Fahed (Abdallah El Akal) as he witnesses the death of his father in an attack on a Palestinian refugee camp and his escape from Beirut with an unlikely companion, an Israeli pilot, Yoni (Stephen Dorff), whose plane is shot down. "Zaytoun," by Eran Riklis ("The Syrian Bride," "Lemon Tree") is a road movie that heads toward Israel and toward the village there that Fahed’s family was forced to leave, as the two meet up with everything but peace along the way. The bond between Israeli pilot and angry Palestinian boy careens through the film with a rough-edged sentimentality. The suggestion is that all enemies can get along once they get to know each other, even in the most desperate of circumstances. Dream away. In this expression of Israeli-Arab wish fulfillment, written by Nader Rizq, a Palestinian living in the U.S., there’s too much warm-hearted optimism for either Israelis or Arabs to take it too seriously. The farther you get away from the Middle East, the better this film will play. Newcomer Abdallah El Akal plays Fahed with a cocky composure. Shot in Israel, the production dresses up (or down) Haifa as besieged Beirut. Israel never looked so ruined. As pilot and young boy flee Lebanese Phalangists, Israeli planes and Palestinian patrols in a Mercedes taxi, the car’s radio blares “Stayin’ Alive,” a reminder of the indiscriminate nature of war and proof that the earnest Riklis hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Criticwire grade: B [David D’Arcy]
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This period adventure story revisits the days of the Lebanese Civil War and the early stages of the ill-fated Israeli incursion into Lebanon. It follows young Fahed (Abdallah El Akal) as he witnesses the death of his father in an attack on a Palestinian refugee camp and his escape from Beirut with an unlikely companion, an Israeli pilot, Yoni (Stephen Dorff), whose plane is shot down. "Zaytoun," by Eran Riklis ("The Syrian Bride," "Lemon Tree") is a road movie that heads toward Israel and toward the village there that Fahed’s family was forced to leave, as the two meet up with everything but peace along the way. The bond between Israeli pilot and angry Palestinian boy careens through the film with a rough-edged sentimentality. The suggestion is that all enemies can get along once they get to know each other, even in the most desperate of circumstances. Dream away. In this expression of Israeli-Arab wish fulfillment, written by Nader Rizq, a Palestinian living in the U.S., there’s too much warm-hearted optimism for either Israelis or Arabs to take it too seriously. The farther you get away from the Middle East, the better this film will play. Newcomer Abdallah El Akal plays Fahed with a cocky composure. Shot in Israel, the production dresses up (or down) Haifa as besieged Beirut. Israel never looked so ruined. As pilot and young boy flee Lebanese Phalangists, Israeli planes and Palestinian patrols in a Mercedes taxi, the car’s radio blares “Stayin’ Alive,” a reminder of the indiscriminate nature of war and proof that the earnest Riklis hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Criticwire grade: B [David D’Arcy]

This article is related to: Toronto International Film Festival, Reviews, Zaytoun, Eran Riklis