Salma, a Palestinian widow, is the owner of her late father’s cherished lemon grove, near the green line border with Israel. When the Israeli defense minister and his wife move into a house facing the grove from the Israeli side, the secret service declares the grove a potential threat to the minister and orders it to be cut down. To everyone’s surprise, Salma fights back with the help of a young Palestinian lawyer and the silent support of the minister’s lonely wife, and takes her case all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Lemon Tree is the story of one woman’s struggle to preserve her values and way of life while facing the never-ending turmoil of the Middle East.
NIF Film Club discussed this film with NIF’s VP of Public Engagement Libby Lenkinski and director Eran Riklis.
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Eran Riklis is one of Israel’s most acclaimed film makers, and has been working as a director, writer and producer for over thirty five years. Riklis is a graduate of the National Film & TV School in Beaconsfield, England and also studied at Tel Aviv University.
His award winning films were released to critical acclaim worldwide and include: Spider in the Web (2019), starring Ben Kingsley, Monica Bellucci and Itay Tiran. Shelter (2017) starring Golshifteh Farahani and Neta Riskin. Dancing Arabs (aka A Borrowed Identity) (2014) premiered at the Locarno and Telluride Film festivals. Zaytoun (2012) premiered at the Toronto IFF and won the People’s Choice Award (runner up). For Playoff (2011), lead actor Danny Huston received the Best Actor Award at the Montreal International Film Festival. The Human Resources Manager (2010), won five Israeli Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) and the Audience Award in Locarno. Riklis enjoyed wide international critical and box office success with Lemon Tree (2008), winner of the Audience Award at the Berlin and San Sebastian film festivals and with The Syrian Bride (2004), winner of 18 international awards including the Audience Award in Locarno. His nostalgic rock & roll film Vulcan Junction (1999), won the Best Film award at the Haifa Film Festival, Zohar (1993) was the biggest box office success for an Israeli film in the 90’s and Cup Final(1991), his international breakthrough, was presented at numerous festivals including Venice and Berlin. His first film, in 1984, was On a clear day you can see Damascus. Riklis also directed numerous hours of television drama series, various documentaries and shorts.
Riklis is a recipient of the Jerusalem Film Festival Achievement Award, 2011 and the Ministry of Culture Film Award, 1993. He was a visiting professor at Penn University (2014), Artist in Residence at Emory University (2015) and gave an extensive lecture tour in universities across the US. He is a member of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The European Film Academy and the Israeli Film & TV Academy.
Riklis is married to writer-director Dina Zvi-Riklis and father of Tammy (a journalist) and Yonatan (a pianist and composer).