Whatever your thoughts on the Israel verses everyone else in the Middle East situation it’s clear we are not allowed to back Israel because they are top dogs. But if the Israelis were in camps in Palestine like they were in Germany and Poland then where would you sympathies lay? Nobody likes a smug winner. The film critics were certainly unimpressed with Zaytoun’s rather soft and unsophisticated interpretations of the Lebanon v Israel war (1982) and savaged it.
Even the lefty Israeli director of the film described a process where "only Israeli concerns were addressed by the producers and Israeli versions of history permitted’. He claims alternate perspectives were simply unacceptable to the producers and they censored his film, including the removal of a segment showing the effects of Israeli phosphorus and cluster bombing on the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut despite being in the original script for years, while the initial killing of an Arab child in the film by a phosphorus attack was then changed to being targeted by a Lebanese sniper. It’s that kind of film and certainly does feel sanitized, why it only made 50k in America. Not only do winners write history but they make the final edit in Hollywood it seems.
Amid the chaos of the Lebanese Civil War, Israeli pilot Yoni (Stephen Dorff) is shot down over Beirut and is quickly taken prisoner by the militia of a Palestinian refugee camp. Among the captors is ten-year-old soccer loving Fahed (Abdallah El Akal), whose father (Johnny Arbid) and sickly grandfather (Adham Abu Aqel) obsessively tends to their prized olive tree sapling (a zaytoun), refusing to replant it until they return to their ancestral land in what is now disputed.
Despite the kid’s deep-rooted hatred for Yoni after his father is killed by an air raid, Fahed thinks he can use the pilot prize to get past the border and into "Palestine" to plant his father's olive tree. Yoni is a lugubrious hostage but intends to escape his prison as the guards become increasingly lax. Eventually the kid semi bonds with the pilot and when his best school friend Aboudi (Loai Nofi) is killed by a Lebanese phalanges sniper and the two embark on a harrowing and dangerous journey of survival, reconciliation and friendship as they attempt to slip out through the maze of war town streets and evade the various factions running the show to freedom at the Israeli border. They stroke a deal and expected to keep it.
I must admit I was expecting the normal polemic against Israel here. That is so not what this is, more a film about the paternal relationship between an older man and the innocence of a young boy than a war town drama. It’s pro Israel to the point of comical and the bizarre casting of Stephen Dorff as an Israeli pilot up there with Sylvester Stallone playing Judge Dredd. In mitigation like most Hollywood actors Dorff has a Jewish parent.
The film simply doesn’t want to address the reasons for the war or who was the aggressor, all the Israeli soldiers lovely and all the Arabs carton characters. Some of the situations are absurd in the film, like the kid being able to walk off with their most prized prisoner and the friends running the snipers gauntlet for a laugh the silliest. The more realistic situations, like the execution of a woman in the street by an unnamed militia for presumably being an informer, are very real but that side of the macho hate that drives war in the Middle East not explored. And the whole soccer theme is completely wasted, especially as the kid’s nickname is Zico and wears the Brazilian football shirt in awe of his hero. Exploiting the 1982 World Cup theme that was being played in Spain concurrently through the film would have worked well.
On the whole it’s a misguided but friendly parable that doesn’t quite become the subtle allegory it hopes to. Extracting the reasons why Palestinians hate Israel and vice versa kills the tension and point to the movie and it becomes too gentle. Abdallah El Akal is good as Zico, the kid that just wants to kick a ball around and dodge school with his mate’s, the hatred taught in this part of the world by the men who have also been taught hate by their fathers. The reality is that it’s that keeps the war going and not Israeli aggression so much and Arab men seem to need to be defined by their machismo and passion over intelligence and compassion. Even if Palestine did become a state in its own right how long until warring factions like we see in Libya, Syria and Iraq would rip it apart? It always seems to me that Arabs are just looking for a reason to fight each other, be it the 1200-year ruck between Sunni and Shiaa or that lot has a bigger Ak-Ak gun than we have. This is one brutal chip-on-the-shoulder race.
LWT isn't really one of my fav TV channels but they hold the rights to F1 so I have to watch them. Most of the programming is good and of a high quality but the really annoying thing is their damn advert breaks I suppose that they keep their costs down and really are the main source of income for the channel. But this does not excuse the fact that the advert breaks come at the most irritating moments during a race or a TV program. If I had my way the adverts would be after the TV programs not during of cause this would mean longer ad breaks but I'm sure people would prefer it. LWT do produce some great programs and TV dramas and often put some great films on. So I guess the adverts are worth while even if they are so damn irritating
After Carlton Communications won the weekday bid for programming on ITV (and LWT retaining it's weekend spot) in the early 90's from Thames Television, the choice of programmes were either the same, or stale. Not a very good start for a new company. But atleast they had a fresh new image, a friendly TV image, and from that they begun on working on preserving old favourites (and non-favourites), and introducing programmes that cater for quite a number of tastes. There are times when Carlton/LWT (and Channel 4) give the BBC channels a run for their money! I'm not a supporter of Carlton, like a football team supporter, but their television license has served them and their audience well, and I'm very sure they'll continue to do so. A great channel. At weekends, LWT takes over and continues to provide great classic family entertainment throughout, as it has done so for even many years before Carlton.