Title – Zaytoun (2012)
Director – Eran Riklis (Lemon Tree)
Cast – Stephen Dorff, Abdallah El Akal
Plot – In Beirut 1982 young Palestinian boy Fahed (Akal) helps a shot down Israeli pilot Yoni (Dorff) traverse the dangerous territory between borders so he can get back to safety.
“Why is he worth a thousand of us?”
Review by Eddie on 22/09/2014
It’s possible for one decision to derail a movie completely, one choice by someone involved in a film that just is inherently wrong. These decisions could be something small like a musical score, costume design, cinematographer or in Eran Riklis’s 2012 film Zaytoun something big like a miscast actor in the form of the seriously un-Israeli Yoni Stephen Dorff.
In a story that totally hinges on the believability and likeability of its two leads, Zaytoun fails miserably. Concerning the young Palestinian boy Fahed who we are asked to root for and journey along with, actor Abdallah El Akal does a horrible job with his boy acting not the right side of enduring or not the comical side of rebel. It’s a difficult feat to have a child actor take lead in a film and make it work and Riklis can’t achieve the feat here. With Fahed such an unlikeable and uninteresting glue to the film all hope is rested onto Hollywood B list extraordinaire Stephen Dorff to move the picture forward but in a horrible misjudgement of casting he is doomed before a single frame was even shot with the plausibility of him pulling off being an Israeli so impossible that it’s hard to even fathom why a born and breed Israeli could not of done the job and done it better. It’s not that Dorff is bad perse in his acting just non-believable in his role.
With the failings of the films leads other elements of the film do not help its causes with a story that sadly can’t shake the dust of mediocrity and a sense of disbelief while Riklis as a director can’t add much to proceedings other than a nice opening shot and some small bursts of directional creativity. With a script overhaul, a smarter sense of direction and better cast actors you do get the sense that somewhere inside this supposed adventure/life affirming tale is a good film.
I would be confident in saying that not many have heard of this film and it’s not hard to see why. With painfully few things within Zaytoun worth recommending and with a cliché story it’s easy to see why this one sunk like a stone even with some advanced hype that suggested awards and box office glory. A miss-step for all involved.
1 very far from Israeli actors out of 5