- 1 hr 47 min
Zaytoun is a 2012 film directed by Eran Riklis and co-written with Nader Rizq. The movie is set in 1982, Beirut, during the Lebanese civil war. The main character, Yoni (Stephen Dorff), is a washed-up Israeli fighter pilot whose plane is shot down over West Beirut. He is captured by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and held as a prisoner of war. In one of his attempts to escape from his Israeli captors, he is rescued by a 12-year-old Palestinian refugee named Fahed (Abdallah El Akal). After escaping, they form an unlikely alliance and journey together through war-torn Beirut to return Fahed to his family's ancestral home in a small village in Galilee. Zaytoun is a film that blends drama and humor to center on the topic of unlikely friendships formed in times of conflict. Stephen Dorff does a commendable job of portraying Yoni - he brings an emotional depth to the character that makes it easy to empathize with his situation. The young actor Abdallah El Akal, also gives a brilliant performance as Fahed. He is captivating and his journeys through the war-torn city of Beirut are thrilling. The movie's plotline is driven by Yoni's desperation to escape from Beirut and Fahed's tenacity to make peace with the Israelis. As they journey towards the border, they encounter a myriad of obstacles and dangerous situations that are rooted in the reality of the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For example, their journey through a minefield and an encounter with a band of rival factions of Palestinians aren't far off from the reality of the war zone. However, as they travel together, we see an unlikely friendship blossom between them where they learn about each other's culture and combat their stereotypes. Alice Taglioni who plays a French woman, who joins them on their journey, provides an interesting perspective. As someone who is removed from the conflict and is also searching for her place in the world, her character is intriguing. The director's choice to include her in the story adds another level of depth to the plot. The film also addresses topical issues like social and political struggle, loss, diaspora, and the search for identity. The story is told from the perspectives of Israelis and Palestinians alike, rather than just through one character's narrative. The use of Arabic and Hebrew at various points in the film serves to capture a sense of culture and identity, and communicates that there might just be more similarities than differences between the two cultures. Eran Riklis, the director, deserves praise for his excellent work with the cinematography. The film's visuals, in both the war-torn streets of Beirut and the scenic countryside, are stunning. The beauty and destruction are vividly captured on camera, providing a stark contrast of the world in which the film takes place. The ending of the movie might not be what viewers expect, but it is a fitting climax to the journey that the characters have taken us on. It offers satisfying resolutions to the conflicts and leaves us with the message of hope for a peaceful end to the conflict between the two countries. Zaytoun is an outstanding movie that offers thought-provoking insights on war and the human condition, but it is so much more than that. It is a heartfelt story of friendship and forgiveness that transcends any cultural and political divides that exist between people.