Zaytoun (film)

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Zaytoun Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Eran Riklis
Produced by Gareth Unwin
Fred Ritzenberg
Written by Nader Rizq
Starring Stephen Dorff
Abdallah El Akal
Music by Cyril Morin
Cinematography Dan Laustsen
Edited by Hervé Schneid
Bedlam Productions
Far Films
H.W. Buffalo & Co
Distributed by Pathé (France)
Strand Releasing (US)
Release dates
Running time
110 minutes[1]
Country Israel
United Kingdom
Language Hebrew
Box office $41,908[2]

Zaytoun (Hebrew: זייתון‎) is a 2012 Israeli adventure thriller film directed by Eran Riklis and produced by Academy Award-winning producer Gareth Unwin and Fred Ritzenberg. It premiered in September 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival.[3]

The screenplay was written by Nader Rizq, a Palestinian-American living in the United States. What started as a hobby in 1991 ended up making the semi-finals of the 2001 Nicholl Fellowships run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Subsequent re-writes again placed in the Nicholls and semi-finaled in the Ohio Independent Screenplay Awards. In late 2007, American producer Fred Ritzenberg came aboard and helped further develop the script.[4]


During the 1982 Lebanon War, an Israeli fighter pilot, Yoni, is shot down over Beirut and captured by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Fahed, a precocious young Palestinian refugee who is angered by the death of his father in an Israeli air attack, agrees to help Yoni escape and lead him out of the city if Yoni will get him over the border and back to his family's ancestral village. As they embark on a hazardous road trip across the war-ravaged country, Yoni and Fahed move from suspicion and mutual antagonism to a tentative camaraderie as they make their way closer to the place they both call home.



Most of the Beirut scenes were filmed in Haifa.[4]


The screen writer Nader Rizq, has since come out speaking about changes made to his screenplay in violation of his integrity as an artist and spokesman for his people’s rights.[5] He mentions being excluded from the decision process which resulted in the last minute changes to the screenplay, yet he insisted on, and received sole writing credit.

He described a process were "Only Israeli concerns were addressed, Israeli opinions expressed, and Israeli versions of history permitted. Alternate perspectives were simply unacceptable. And no measure of carefully documented alarm made an iota of difference."

Examples of censorship includes: Removal of a scene showing the effects of Israeli phosphorus and cluster bombing on the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut despite being in script for years. The opening slide stating that the Israeli attack on Lebanon was in response to rocket attacks when a ceasefire had been in place for months. Limiting the portrayal of Israeli air raids attacks as initially described in the script. Decreasing the number of Israeli attacks while increasing the portrayal of Arabic violence. Israeli cluster, phosphorus and air raids was removed while the initial killing of an Arab child by a phosphorus attack was then changed to being targeted by a Lebanese sniper. Depicting forced child soldiering among Palestinian youth. The original script was planned to depict the Israeli pilot humanely reacting to the Arabic victims of Israeli bombing. This was never filmed and instead it showed him humanely reacting to an Arabic woman killed senselessly by a group of Arabic militia. The original script calls for Fahad to conclude on reaching his ancestral village and lands "Baba... I'm home". This was changed to "Baba... I'm here".

Critical reception[edit]

Zaytoun received mixed reviews, currently holding a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 32 reviews, which averages out to a 5.5/10 rating; the consensus states: "It has a lot on its mind, including a timely storyline with real-world significance; unfortunately, Zaytoun‍ '​s reach exceeds its grasp, partly due to the presence of a miscast Stephen Dorff."[6] The film has a 39/100 rating on Metacritic, which signifies "generally unfavorable reviews".[7]

Variety published a good review, suggesting it was "an accessible, briskly paced and occasionally schematic adventure".[8] So did The Huffington Post, whose review added it was "punctuated by some outstanding performances".[9] However, The Financial Times suggested it was "simplistic" and there was "too much diplomacy".[10]


  1. ^ "ZAYTOUN (15)". Artificial Eye. British Board of Film Classification. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Zaytoun at Box Office Mojo Retrieved 12 November 2013
  3. ^ "Programmer's Note". Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Herman, Judi (October 2012). "Zaytoun". Jewish Renaissance 12 (1): 34–35. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Zaytoun at Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved 12 November 2013
  7. ^ Zaytoun at Metacritic Retrieved 12 November 2013
  8. ^ John Anderson, Review: "Zaytoun", Variety, 14 September 2012
  9. ^ E. Nina Rothe, Eran Riklis' Zaytoun: A Much Needed Lesson in Peace at TIFF 2012, The Huffington Post, 09/12/2012
  10. ^ Joseph Charlton, Zaytoun – DVD review, The Financial Times, 5 April 2013

External links[edit]