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marcellojun7 March 2006
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.
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a great parabol
saoirse-422 May 2006
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.
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3 Characters, 3 Countries
rzitrin123 July 2006
It would be easy to misunderstand or even miss the whole point of this movie. But if you can get past the endless opening scene of a sobbing Natalie Portman, by the end Gitai has explored three characters (with great acting performances), three women from different cultures, and three countries. I don't want to give away the end, but Gitai has managed to make a point about Israelis, Palestinians and, after some thought about his set-up of the character, especially Americans. This makes some of the slower, strained parts of the movie better, even makes them seem to fit together nicely. My grade might be a tad high, but it's rare when any movie maker pulls off character, acting, politics, and characters that well represent their different societies. For that, this movie gets a lot of credit.
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My 2 cents
ott_dog3 February 2007
This is more of a response to the latest post by "Mrnaturalsez". I guess we are expected to take your word on a movie instead of the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, which incidentally gave this move high praise. The film was an interesting, raw look at Jerusalem and Jordan as one would see it as a traveller. Plot has nothing to do with appreciating this movie, so I think you missed the mark. The story was used as a reason to explore the middle eastern culture. It was also interesting seeing Natalie Portman speak in her native Hebrew language. The film drew upon Portman's real life, as she was born in Isreal and had a Jewish father and American mother. Some films are watched for action, others for art, but I guess one will believe what one wants. There's my 2 cents.
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Bad Cinema
yediotm8 July 2005
This is one of those really bad films. Actually there isn't too much to say. Boring script, shallow stereotypical characters and long unending scenes. "ART FILM" at its worst. Some of the camera shots were nicely made though, I have to agree. And Channa Laszlo does a good work as leading actress.

OK, now let's forget about that. Another boring film from Gitai. Nothing new. What interests me as a film-goer from Israel is the question: How come Gitai is the most successful Israeli film maker in international audiences.

There are other much more talented Israeli directors such as Avi Nesher, Dover Koshashvili, Gil Dar or Keren Yadaaia. So why Gitai? Well it is a known fact that the French and European audiences love him because of his left wing ideas. He flatters the European views on Israel and he sells himself in Europe as an Israeli dissident and exile unacknowledged or even censored by Israeli establishment for his so called radical views.

As an Israeli left winger, let me tell you. Nobody cares enough about Gitai to even bother to censor him. The truth of the matter is that if you know the Israeli reality only a bit, it becomes immediately apparent how phony and untruthful his films are. His view of Israel, the way you see it in "Free Zone" is like that of the tourist he is, coming to Israel from Paris to make a new film and watching the whole of Israeli reality condescendingly from his know-all glasses.

This is the reason why all his films fail in Israel both critically as well as in the box office. Not because of his "radical" political views. Israeli audiences can cope with criticism, but not with Gitai's packs of cliché's. It is a shame audiences in the world who don't know the situation in Israel well enough, get their impression from such phony works.

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confusing movie
jinty-reid22 November 2006
Found this movie confusing and felt it could have been done much better. Understood some of the focus in the movie, the bringing together of 3 women from 3 cultures living in countries involved in perilous times etc. Found the length of time that the viewer was subjected to crying at the beginning of the movie too long and belaboured the point that was easily grasped in the first few minutes. The superimposing of scenes became annoying and distracted from the quality of the movie, the flashbacks were poorly done and only added to the confusion. The ending left the viewer high and dry without giving any meaning at all to it. In all I did not enjoy this movie it seemed to be allowed to just ramble along and I am amazed it won awards.
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Quelle Disappointment
bgottfried-130 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
My husband and I waited for months to see this film of DVD and when we finally got it and watched it we were terribly disappointed. The film is about as shallow and politically loaded as watching an episode of Studio 60. The three main female leads are hollow, with the exception being Hannah Lazlo, but even her performance feels forced and 1-dimensional, as if someone told her ahead of time she'd win an award for taking on this role. Truthfully, the movie's start with Natalie Portman crying in a car and her mascara running down her face for 10 minutes to Chava Alberstein's Had Gadya wasn't a highlight either.

Advice to those seeking a good, emotionally charged, culturally deeper Israeli film: Broken Wings.
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A Nutshell Review: Free Zone
DICK STEEL4 September 2008
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.
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Excellent road trip movie!
yossarian10019 January 2006
With interesting camera work, strong performances, and a different slant on storytelling, FREE ZONE took me on one heck of a ride. Being a Natalie Portman fan, I also very much enjoyed all the tight shots of her face and, obviously, so did the director. This is one of those movies that gives one a strong sense of being there. I like that. The story itself is simple yet mysterious. I like that, too. FREE ZONE probably won't work for everyone, though, especially those who frown on any departure from traditional movie making. Traditional this is not. However, if you enjoy something different once in awhile, something on the creative side, then FREE ZONE is very much worth taking a look at. It's not "artsy," it's creative.
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Being called mediocre would be a compliment
rivercmb6 February 2006
I only wanted to see this because Natalie Portman was in it, but it wasn't worth it. This is a low-budget film that pretends to be high concept, to make up for the banal dialogue and empty story.

This isn't an "art film", it's a bad film. Having long drawn out sequences with seemingly no purpose or end, may be a hallmark of "art films" but this doesn't have anything of interest that follows it. This is the Israeli version of Lost in Translation.

I don't like going around bashing films but there aren't a lot of reviews for this film and I wouldn't want anyone going in and blowing money on it, expecting a well written small independent film. They hired a cameraman but forgot to hire a writer.
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Great Acting, Awful Screenplay
claudio_carvalho2 April 2008
The confused American Rebecca (Natalie Portman) has left USA to live in Jordan. After breaking her engagement with her Israeli boyfriend, she asks the Israeli taxi driver Hanna (Hana Lazlo) to take her anywhere but the place where she is. Hanna tells her that she needs to go Jordan's Free Zone, a place surrounded by Syria, Iraq and South Arabia, to receive US$ 30,000.00 that the Palestinian partner of her husband called "The American" owes to him. When they arrive in the location, they do not find the "The American" but a Palestinian woman called Leila (Hiam Abbass). Hanna forces Leila to take her to meet "The American" in his Oasis, but when they arrive there, she is informed that his son has burnt the place, stolen the money and crossed the border.

"Free Zone" is a movie with great acting leaded by the adorable Natalie Portman, Hana Lazlo and Hiam Abbass. The road trip through the locations in Jordan and the soundtrack are other attractions. However, the screenplay is simply awful. Following the "Dogma 95" style, with a free handy cam, no lighting, many improvisation etc., the director and writer Amos Gitai makes a confused and inconclusive story with one of the worst opening scene I have ever seen, with Natalie Portman crying without explanation and a boring song for almost ten minutes. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Free Zone"
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Waste of Time
mrnaturalsez19 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I am going to have to agree with the only other poster in the "user comments" section at this date, "yediotm," and his comment of "bad cinema." I would much rather be saying something favorable, rather than negative, but in this case I feel compelled to do so for some reason -probably because I am getting sick of wasting a good chunk of time watching/dealing with another crap film. I try to spot the junk beforehand, in particular, the myriad of mindless action films that are being released today, but this one didn't have much info on it. It's not that I am hard to please, or have an aversion to foreign films, or something. I actually can find interest in a wide variety of films, and enjoy foreign pictures, having installed English subtitle files to over 200 of them in order to watch and understand them.

That was one of the major problems here - the language. There was some confusion as to what language this film was in, and after searching the web, didn't really learn much more, although it did appear it was in English. The film did have a lot of it in English, maybe close to half, but the rest of it was in Hebrew, or something else, and depending on the scene, kept switching back and forth between languages. Unless you speak that language, you will not understand 1/2 of the conversations and things spoken in the film.

That's not all of it though - by far, as evidenced by yediotm, who is from Israel, and most likely speaks the film's language, and "not understanding what they are saying" is not a major drawback. For me, a good plot is probably the most important factor in a film, and can overcome other inadequacies. There really wasn't much of a plot, and what there was of one, didn't really become apparent until about 45 mins. into the film, and then, it never did play itself out, with the film ending about half-way into it. I may have missed some "messages," or other things the filmmaker was trying to say, but there seemed to be a lot of wasted footage, or filming of little things with no apparent relevancy to anything. One example of wasted footage was the annoying beginning of the film. This was a young lady sitting as a passenger in a car and crying. I think that, after a minute or so of the crying, we would have got it that she was quite unhappy or sad about something. But no, we had to endure this off and on crying for 6 minutes. At least once, I had to verbally respond to the TV with "Alright already, enough with the crying! We got the picture." It was over 7 mins. (including approx. a minute of opening credits) before the film finally started, or started moving along.

Maybe someone else may find something interesting about this film, although I can't imagine what. Again though, maybe there's something I don't understand. About all I found halfway interesting at all, was seeing what some of the Jordan countryside would look like - err ..., or that is, the sights you would see out the window while driving down a highway.
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An awesome low-budget masterpiece!
armstrong-lance28 January 2006
Directed by Amos Gitai, the movie seemed to be stupid at first, with that long scene in the car. However, after the camera changed, I immediately realized that the shooting was in Jordan. Reading the info on the movie, I realized that it is THE FIRST ISRAELI movie ever made in Jordan. I can say that I got along very well with the dynamic scenes, although the director exaggerated a bit with the car scenes. They tried and actually succeeded to make a good movie out of less money, which, in our days, is an extraordinary thing! Hanna Laslo plays very well her role, and Natalie Portman really knows how to cry :)). When you see the movie, you can actually feel that you are there, in the car, in Jordan. You almost feel the eyes watching you from every street corner, you have that feeling that you are watched. I had shivers down my spine when the car passed the border. I felt like I was going to be checked for the passport... The soundtrack, made by Chava Alberstein with the song Chad Gadya attracted me from the beginning. This is the reason why I watched this film for 3 times. But (and there is a big "but"), this movie can be seen by other eyes... People who like action movies with a lot of shootings and blood will find this film disappointing. Anyway, in my opinion, the movie is a low-budget masterpiece. As a conclusion, I recommend this movie to all who like psyhologic films and not only. I gave a 9 to this, only for the fact that too many scenes were shot in the car. Everything else is PERFECT!
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This film goes nowhere...& not in a good way!
karmaflic30 April 2007
This film was one of the worst 10 movies i have ever seen, & maybe the worst dialogue i have EVER heard! This is not because i am a traditional movie fan, quite the contrary i LOVE film d'auteur, artistic films & open-end movies, but this film is NOT one of them, it pretends to be, but definitely is not. No dialogue, no coherence, no consistency. This is not my first Amos Goitae movie, & i think that this director is an artist in AVOIDING THE SUBJECT! He has excellent setting for his films, but he always manages to get out of context & spoil the whole subject. What a pity, this region of the world has so many stories, it only needs a good storyteller! Don't waste your time with this one!
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fine movie
liior20 June 2007
I enjoyed this movie, and Im not just saying that because Im Jewish. But things that really really ticked me off was his editing technique, especially the overlapping just made me nauseous. I need to watch this movie again because I didn't understand a lot of the things. I didn't like the ending, it kind of just put me off. Overall it was a fine movie. But can someone please explain why she ran away in the last scene, like out of no where too. The credits were messed too, with the 2 women yelling at each other, it was just pointless. If this movie had better explanation of what in the world is going on, I would had enjoyed it more. I have to compliment the acting though, it was well done. Also, some of the scenes were just way to extended. This movie is worth watching. Great morality and has deep meaning, but it still could have been done a lot better, especially when your showing tragedy in the middle east.
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one of the top five most awful films.......ever
lzce22 September 2007
This film is one of my top five most painful films to watch. Amos Gitai calls himself a director, but he offers nothing to legitimize that title. He is hardly artistic, but he must see himself as an artist--the way he drowns his audience with the superimposed scenes over and over again; the way he drags his shots on excessively in an attempt to be poignant; the music and sound effects he chose to convey sadness and lost are so exhausting. The result was an incomprehensible and excruciatingly dull compilation of scenes slapped together to make a so-called 90-minute film. I hope that Natalie Portman accepted this role without full comprehension of the director's intentions. If she did, I'm glad that she has already made a name for herself in Hollywood.
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Much needed portrayal of living within Israeli-Palestinian region
dredyoung30 May 2008
My 7 vote was for the filming, direction, and plot. For the informative value of the film, I would give it a 9. It was a bravely balanced portrayal and helped personalize my understanding of the how the structure of the conflict militates against the urge to empathize when face-to-face. It is heartrending watching antipathy being replaced with empathy and mutual assistance even while the regional conflicts continually compel opposing sides toward distrust and attack. Seeing the way the many groups are living in constant fear of lethal attacks has become the norm is heartbreaking. Each side continuing to live with a hollow hope for resolution and peace is awesome and somewhat offsets the massive human tragedy. While typical of human social psychology, it is still sad to see that even clashes within affiliates can lead to incendiary outbursts. The final scene is a terrific metaphor for the complex, dire configuration of the plight of the individual people, the American, Israeli, Palestinian, and all others in the region. Portman is to be commended for her taking the role of Rebecca in a movie that was sure to receive little acclaim.
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PriZone (DVD)
leplatypus3 April 2007
This movie was terribly long & dull for me.

2 things have really bothered me:

· the directing of Gitai: either he shoots big & long close-ups, either he does long wide empty frames (the road, a flag….). For me, it was not a "Free Zone" because I saw only what he wanted me to see. I couldn't make any feelings of Jordania because we don't see it.. The worst: when he mixes two shoots on the same frame (a talk between Natalie and her boyfriend & the eternal windows car…) With that, you see none of them…

· the story of Gitai: again, he doesn't write a story that anyone can relate but imposes its own feeling. When you see that the film begins with 8 minutes of Natalie crying in a passenger seat & that the female driver has no words for her, you know that the characterization is stupid…. Any human feeling, either Jewish, Arab, American, french or whatever you like, would have been simple: "Why do you cry? Be strong. You are not alone.. I am with you.. Can I help….". Personally, I couldn't get into those crazy characters and the following road trip wouldn't deny it..

In conclusion, when a director tells me "it is my vision or nothing", well, I am free & I choose "nothing".
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Much ado about familiar territory
groggo10 November 2009
This film starts slow, ends slow, and except for an interesting, symbolic ending and a lot of driving in the Middle East, doesn't really go anywhere. As a movie, its metaphorical messages are too familiar by half.

The film opens with a single-shot, non-stop, ten (that's TEN) minutes showing the Israeli-American Rebecca (Natalie Portman) in profile, weeping voluminously because she has broken up with her boyfriend and feels alone and lost in Israel, the country of her birth. We don't have five minutes (even that would be too much); we have an agonizing TEN minutes: wholly one-ninth of the entire film.

Director Amos Gitai has made some great films, but he can also be one of the most irritating big-name directors in the world. He doesn't disappoint with this one: the irritation keeps piling up. Only he knows why he makes these peculiar choices in his films.

There are long, longggg swaths of often poorly written dialogue, spoken in extreme close-ups in a claustrophobic taxi (symbolism again) driven by the terrific Israeli actress Hana Laszlo, who plays Hanna, a woman who must visit the Free Zone in Jordan to claim $30,000 owed to her husband by a Palestinian.

The dialogue doesn't propel the plot, because there is no plot. It's instead a film about outsiders such as Portman trying to understand the age-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. She comes away in predictable futility, because, according to Gitai, although she was born in Israel, she didn't stay there. That's the key difference.

This is a very long 90-minute film that doesn't tell us very much, except: (a) Israelis and Palestinians just cannot get along; and (b) absentee or non-Israelis/Palestinians cannot begin to understand the conflict. That, essentially, is what this film is 'about'. And enter the problem: didn't we already know that? Isn't this just a little twist on something we've already seen more than a few times before?
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sbekam8 May 2008
I had seen a couple of Amos Gitai's movies and enjoyed his work specially Kadosh which was well done and based on my previous impression of him, when I came across Free Zone, I bought the DVD. However, Free Zone is a disappointing movie. No real story line, weak connection between plots, awful sound quality, long meaningless shots, primitive acting (specially by Hana Laszlo when she is milking the cows and hears the explosion and other scenes) and so many other flaws. Opening scene did not make sense and too long, closing scene was primitive as well. It seemed like maybe Gitai wanted to relay a message in this movie showing life and misery of living in that part of the world. But he failed in his effort. Special feature on the back of DVD indicates optional English subtitle. Except a few scenes that characters spoke Hebrew or Arabic, there is no subtitle. I normally watch my movies to the end for if I may miss something but was tempted to turn this off a few times. I would not recommend wasting money or time on this movie.
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ZeryabFilms28 May 2009
When I saw the beginning of the film begins with more than 10 minutes of Natalie crying in a passenger seat, while nothing is happening, I knew this film will be a very boring film, but I kept watching it, and I made a mistake! The film is a 15 minutes film dragged into 90 minute film, when most of the time nothing is happening, it is not that the film is slow, just things don't move, beside the car they are driving. The director did a very good job of annoying me, he just made a joke of the middle east conflict with a shallow, meaning less story. I am a big fan of art movies, and I am not a Hollywood movie fan, but this Free Zone is not an art movie, and even it is not a Hollywood movie. What I don't understand is how can this film win any awards and even be nominated, especially in Cannes Film Festival. Was the actors so bad in that year that Hana Laszlo won the best Best Actress in Cannes Film Festival? For half of the film she was driving with no expressions or dialog, and even when she spoke she was not convincing. All the actors beside Makram Khoury and Natalie Portman (she was not brilliant) were really bad! But I would say the worst of them all is the director, I did not see any other film he did, but if all his films are like this one, then he should start doing something else!

Sorry if my English is not perfect!
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Portman, Portman, Portman
A_Different_Drummer20 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The hallmark of a true star is the ability to shine no matter what the setting. From her work as a young actress in Star Wars and The Professional, to the more mature work in Black Swan (wow) and Mr. Magorium, Portman has never allowed herself to get lost in a movie, and this one is no exception. Other reviewers have questioned the screenplay, the direction, the value of the allegory, and even the use of dialects. Don't care. I stumbled on this film by accident on Pay-Cable, and allowed Portman to take me a scenic tour of the Middle East. She was a great guide, using her own charisma to compensate for any failings in the film -- and, to be frank, there were few such failings over all. The writers had a simple story to tell and they told it. I also liked the sound track, a very effective use of music to counterpoint key scenes. Without Portman, a good film. With her, it is something better.
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Bad, best to avoid!
dmarkuze16 April 2006
This film is low budget and it definitely shows.It's bad and no words about its artistic merits will make it any better. I only heard one truth in the movie, when the Arab woman said that people should speak their enemy's language. There is no doubt that Arabic should be compulsory in Israeli school. (I was taught French instead). Furthermore, the Brazilian who is so praising this very bad move, Hanna Laslo's father (in the movie) hails from Berlin and therefore she is not a Russian_Israeli. Also, maybe I am mistaken , but I don't recall that Israeli tanks reached the Jordanian/Iraqi border during the 1967 war, so they could not have possibly destroyed the Oasis there. I consider myself left of centre when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but this movie certainly did not do anything for me in that regards.
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I couldn't wait to get out of there
Bernie15711 June 2008
Five of us sat in a room and watched this movie on DVD. At the end we discussed it somewhat. One woman seemed to get it but the rest of us did not.

In fact I had "shpilkes" through the entire movie and wanted to suggest that at least my wife and I leave early on but I didn't want to disturb the others in case they were enjoying it (although I couldn't see how).

We started viewing it without subtitles (sort of by accident) but part-way through the opening crying scene with unintelligible music, we decided to stop it and turn on subtitles thinking that perhaps the lyrics of the music would show up in the subtitles. No such luck so we sped through the crying scenes.

In most respects I agree with most of the comments associated with low ratings and poor reviews. The double-exposure scenes were just annoying. The pouty-lipped Hannah seemed to be trying to "say" something but I didn't know what. The Palestinian lady seemed to take her time getting started participating in the movie.

It went from scene to scene without much understanding on my part as to why. And finally at the end, at an Israeli checkpoint (I think), Rebecca (Portman) jumps out of the car and runs off lickety split with vehicles going after her with sirens blaring. Yet I don't know why she did try to run past security nor why she wasn't shot at.

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Worth taking a look
hboral21 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie will not appeal to everyone, but I think it is worth taking a look nevertheless. There are many parts of this movie that seem to drag on forever, including the end. This is a "road" film, so this is also not for the weak of stomach, the films bounces much of the time. It is shot with 35mm film and provides a delightful look into the perils faced by both Palestinians and Jews living in and around Israel. It paints a very unbiased view of the situation and allows us to look at the problems faced by the two cultures as they come to terms with their own paths in life, which cross quite a bit in this film. If I was to have been the editor on this film, I would have cut out much of the beginning with all of the crying, and I would also cut out the end containing all that pointless bickering. It seems to almost belittle the situations faced by the Palestinians and the Jews. It isn't just about money.
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