Unlike some other people, I did find this movie to be a great one. Amos Gitaï show us the middle east complexity through three beautiful characters, one Israelian, one Palestinian and one American with Jewish extracts. Those three women are supposed to represent three "forces" who can play a part in the situation over there : Israel, Palestine and the "international community" represented by Natalie Portman's character Rebecca. Rebecca appears to be just a witness to what is happening. Although she tries to get involved and to ease the conflict down her efforts remain without effect. The movie shows as well that Israelians and Palestinians could talk to each other instead of getting at war. They have quite the same problems, they live on the same land, they are quite the same people, they have quite the same cultural background. but some have to forget about their fear and parano while the others need to stop fanatism growing within their ranks. Amos Gitaï wants to show us as well that Israelians should accept to talk to moderate Palestinians. It's the only way to move towards a better tomorrow otherwise fanatics will be their only opponents and there will be no possible dialogue. Some people here have not understood a thing in the movie. I read two main wrong critics. One was about the language used in the movie. It seemed disturbing for some people that the movie is not only in English. But truth is not everybody in the world speaks English ! In Israel, the official language is Hebrew. Palestinians speak Arabic. So it's normal that those three languages (with English) are used and spoken in the movie. Otherwise it would be just sci-fi or American fantasm ! The other thing is about Rebecca's crying at the beginning of the movie. She does not cry about her loss. She and we don't give a damn about this loss. As a near to be witness of the situation in the Middle East, she cries about that, about her uselessness, about the vicious circle which make good people killing each others. That's why as well she leaves running at the end of the movie because she can't help Israel and Palestine to get along. She can't understand their fighting. Thank you Mister Amos Gitaï.
Comedy / Drama
Comedy / Drama
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Rebecca, a young American lady who has been living in Jerusalem for a while, suddenly breaks off her engagement with Julio, her Israeli fiancé. In a state of emotional shock she gets into a taxi and asks the diver to take her anywhere she likes but away from the place where she broke up. Although reluctant, Hanna, the driver lets her accompany her to Jordan's Free Zone where she is to meet "The American", her husband Moshe's Palestinian business partner. Once there, they realize "The American" is not there but a Palestinian woman named Leila offers them, after much bickering with Hanna, to take them to the oasis where "The American" lives...
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A Nutshell Review: Free Zone
Directed and co-written by Amos Gitai, Free Zone is the first Israeli movie to be shot in Jordan, and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. Without a doubt my interest in watching the film is for the performance of the luminous Natalie Portman at her birthplace, and one which spotted a bit of controversy and ruckus with their filming near the Wailing Wall. But what is essentially my first Israeli film, I was awed by its simplicity yet powerful underlying message within.
The film is bookended by the cumulative song Chad Gadya which grows on you with each passing minute, but yet watching Natalie Portman's Rebecca crying uncontrollably for more than 5 minutes, somehow just breaks your heart, and you start to wonder why so. We find out later that the American had broken off with her boyfriend Julio (Aki Avni) and is now sitting in a cab she boarded, without a destination to go to in a city not of her own, and begets the driver, Hanna Ben Moshe (Hana Laszlo, in an excellent performance which was to win her the Best Actress Award at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival) to take her anywhere. Hanna grudgingly agrees despite having a personal errant to run in Jordan, and brings her along for a ride.
Like a road trip, the cinematography presents the film in 2 distinct ways, one as if you're an invisible passenger on the same journey with the ladies, ever present in the passenger seat, with point of views centered from within and around the vehicle they're in. The other view, as Rebecca puts it, is that it's "amazing to see things you read in the books". We explore the scenery from Tel Aviv to Amman, in this road trip, and always for those (like me) who have yet to visit both countries, allows for a documentary styled eye-opener like a travelogue for sight and sound. Uniquely, instead of being satisfied with just showing endless roads and paths, we get compressed time with a double exposure and superimposition of the back- stories of both Rebecca and Hanna, and learn of the objective of the latter in this journey to seek someone to recover bad debts to the tune of US$30,000.
Being set in the Middle East also brings to mind the volatility of the security environment and peace agreements in place between the Israelis and Arabs. Issues such as those at the border depicted in the film reflects that clear and present tension that security personnel grapple with everyday, as did the radio announcements made over the impending and credible intelligence of threats. When crossed over to Jordan and meeting up with Leila (Hiam Abbass),we sense a deep mistrust between the characters, even though it stemmed from the root of all evil - money.
That aside, the movie did take ample time off to provide a candid observation of common folk on both sides of the border, highlighting their plight to earn a living, and the tenacity and will of villagers who rebuild their lives ordeal after ordeal. Theirs is never to give up.
But I thought the payload came from the very assured direction of Gitai, with a succinct depiction of the uneasy tripartite relationship between the Arabs, Israelis and the Americans, as represented by the respective characters in their dealings with one another. Sure they bond over cigarettes, music and a common goal in their road trip back to Israel, but under this short term peaceful existence you still cannot shake off that aged old deep rooted mistrust, as it manifested itself toward the end and really got blown way out of proportion, dragging it out. I felt it mirrored the challenges for long term peace, and that comes probably only as a result of a profound, sincere and genuine understanding of cultures cutting both ways, as Leila casually remarked starting with the learning of the Arabic and Hebrew languages. And the most interesting note would be that of Rebecca's insistence to tag along Hanna and get herself embroiled in the feud between both sides, only to find herself running away when the going gets hot, either from a lack of patience, or having absolutely no clue and surrendering from trying to seek a workable peace process for all.
Deceptively simple, with a powerful underlying message. And the wonderful performances by the ensemble team of actresses, made this all the more worthwhile to sit through.
Motion Pictures are not one, but many genres. There are films poised solely to entertain, others to politicize, and yet others are art.
FREE ZONE is art in a film format. Just as most art, it relies more on senses, feelings, aesthetics, and perceptions. Unfortunately, for the unimaginative and unengaged, it can sometimes be unintelligible.
The film begins with a very long close-up shot of a beautiful young woman (Natalie Portman) copiously crying in the back seat of a car, to the Jewish children's rhyme "Had Gadia". The powerful arrangement in crescendos adds pathos to the girl's exteriorization of heart-felt anguish, and the seamlessly-never-ending stories of increasing consequences and characters (sung in Hebrew but appropriately subtitled) add confusion and exasperation. The sense of utter discomfiture is only compounded by the audience's utmost ignorance of the character, her surroundings, and her motivations. Her despair is our despair, but we, much as she also seems, are lost.
Slowly we learn she is parked by the Kotel, or Wailing Wall, in Jerusalem. We also learn she has just fought with her would-be mother-in-law and broken off her engagement to her Spanish-Israeli fiancé. Thus her personal loss becomes the middle-eastern mourning, and her very personal suffering symbolizes the tears and hopelessness of whole peoples and an entire land.
Immediately one is faced with a choice. To watch the rest of the movie as a narrative, or to perceive the allegory it propounds. To choose the first is to misunderstand it entirely, and miss on the powerful images and senses.
Rebecca (Natalie Portman) is an American who struggles aimlessly through life without a clear sense of identity. Her father is Jewish, but she carries little or no pride in her heritage, ignorant even of her status as a Jew (or not). She feels uneasy in her American home, and in a search for an identity that suits her, she acquires (and loses) a fiancé and a home in Israel. How she reacts to the landscape (so extensively shot, in exquisite details) and to the people (diverse, albeit through quick and superficial contacts) symbolizes the author's perception of the American (as in people or nation) own sense of identity and appreciation of the Middle East.
She joins Hannah (Hanna Laslo),a Russian-Israeli middle-aged woman whose life stories unfold piecemeal as a symbolical-historical window on the Israeli nation, on a trip to the Jordanian free trade zone on a mission for personal and familial financial salvation. Her determination and her biases (often even callousness) are obviously shaped by her pressing needs and her clear life trajectory, as evidenced by the unusually thorough (as opposed to the other characters) exposition of her past. Her reactions to her American travel mate, the obstacles in her quest, and the eventual Palestinian they meet clearly embody the Israeli national persona, dreams, fears, and strengths.
The Palestinian our heroes meet is Leila (Hiam Abbass),whose family present as Hannah's possible salvation (as in the money her husband owes her) or damnation (as in the fall-out from the misguided actions of her rebellious and contentious son). Torn between her loyalties to her own family and her duties toward this Jewish woman, she joins the other women in their quest for redemption.
The women allegorize their respective nations. And yet, their struggles are very personal and transcend national identities and interests. The combination of the three, and how they interact amongst themselves to work out their individual travails, masterfully conveys the powerful emotions in the confluence of tribes, nations, countries, and religions in this most convoluted region. The attention to the national frontiers (what role they play in segregating these peoples) juxtaposed to the more promiscuous exchange amongst the actual peoples (their representational counterparts in the characters) is quite fascinating.
The narrative is non linear, relying mostly on feelings and emotions. The filmography is untraditional (a lot of hand-held camera movements, as if the audience is privy to the story, watching a family road trip video) and experimental (long and confusing, yet dramatic, layering of images and back-plots, creating familiarity with back stories, yet maintaining distance thru the lack of clear focus or images). The plot is mostly allegorical, therefore characters are not really introduced and developed as they are thrust upon the audience (with the implication that one already knows them, or who they represent),played out in short pericopes and less of an overarching story.
The film is beautiful and insightful. If you prefer mass produced Hollywoodean one-size-fit-all entertainment, this is not the movie for you.