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USA: New Yorker Films
Cast: Natalie Portman, Hanna Laslo, Hiam Abbass, Carmen Maura, Makram Khoury, Aki Avni, Uri Klauzner, Liron Levo, Tomer Russo, Adnan Tarabshi, Shredy Gabarin
Director: Amos Gitai
Countries: France, Israel, Spain, Belgium
Languages: English / Hebrew / Arabic (English subtitles)
USA: 90 mins
USA Release Date: 7 April 2006 (Limited Release)
Sitting in a chauffeured car parked just outside of Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, Rebecca (Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Natalie Portman) struggles to compose herself. It isn't clear who or what has just upset her, but the driver of the car she's sitting in (Hanna Laslo as Hanna) is losing patience. Hanna's running late for an appointment that she absolutely must keep and Rebecca is holding her up. A strong-willed, charismatic Israeli woman, Hanna is on her way to Jordan, to an ungoverned economic free zone of shady business transactions that is bordered by Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Looking for a quick "escape", Rebecca heedlessly convinces a reluctant Hanna to take her along for the ride.
Their trip to the Free Zone allows Rebecca a moment to reflect on what led her - some months ago - to leave the United States for Israel, and on her breakdown in Hanna's cab earlier in the day. The road-trip also reveals the urgency behind Hanna's quest, which is being made on behalf of her husband, Moshe (Uri Klauzner). Recently wounded in a terrorist attack, Moshe needs Hanna to collect a debt owed to him by a business partner of his that operates an armored car dealership within the Free Zone. But when Hanna and Rebecca reach "the American's" office, they are confronted by Leila (Hiam Abbass), a Palestinian that works for "the American" and who tells Hanna that "the American" and Hanna's money are missing. Determined not to leave the Free Zone without her husband's debt paid, Hanna forces Leila to join her, and with Rebecca tagging along, the three woman begin a search of the Free Zone for "the American" and Moshe's money. Soon the relationship between the three women changes and what began as a kind of pragmatic mutual need between them, quickly turns into an emotional solidarity that will affect each of their lives forever.
Internationally acclaimed Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai (YOM YOM, KADOSH, KIPPUR, KEDMA, PROMISED LAND) is arguably the most accomplished filmmaker to ever come out of the Israeli film industry. Furthering his career-long exploration of Israeli culture - the Film Society of Lincoln Center recently held a major retrospective of his work - FREE ZONE moves to a unique terrain where Israelis and their Arab neighbors connect in a market free of political wrangling. Employing virtuosic long-takes and elegant simultaneous exposures, Gitai's beautiful new film is a quietly sweeping movie about intersected lives in transit. Shot in cooperation with the Jordanian Royal Film Commission, FREE ZONE is the first Israeli fiction feature ever shot in an Arab country. The film boasts first-rate performances by three great actresses of world cinema - Natalie Portman (CLOSER, GARDEN STATE), Hanna Laslo (Winner, Best Actress, 2005 Cannes Film Festival) and Hiam Abbass (PARADISE NOW).