Free Zone (film)

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Free Zone
Directed byAmos Gitai
Produced byNicolas Blanc
Michael Tapuah
Laurent Truchot
Written byAmos Gitai
Marie-Jose Sanselme
StarringNatalie Portman
Hiam Abbass
Hanna Laslo
CinematographyLaurent Brunet
Distributed byBac Films
Release date
June 9, 2005 (2005-06-09)
Running time
93 minutes
Budget$1,234,567 [1]
Amos Gitai with Hana Laszlo and Natalie Portman on the set of Free Zone, 2005

Free Zone is a 2005 film directed by Amos Gitai. Shot in Israel and Jordan, the Israeli-Belgian-French-Spanish production stars Israeli Jewish actress Hanna Laslo, Israeli Arab actress Hiam Abbass, and Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman. It is the second film of Gitai's "Border" or "Frontier" trilogy.

The film made its debut at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2005. It was released in Israel on June 9, 2005, and then appeared at numerous other film festivals throughout the rest of the year, having a limited release on December 16, 2005 in the United States.

Plot [edit]

Rebecca (Natalie Portman) is a Jewish-American girl who has lived in Jerusalem for several months. She has just broken off her engagement. One day, she enters a cab, driven by a Jewish woman, Hanna (Hanna Laslo). Hanna's destination is the Free Zone at the Jordan border[clarification needed] to collect money owed to her husband, recently wounded in a Palestinian rocket attack. Upon reaching the Free Zone, they meet up with Laila (Hiam Abbass), a Palestinian woman who serves as the contact for Hanna's husband's black market activities. The three women set off on a tense journey to retrieve Hanna's money.

The film is bookended by a rendition of the traditional Passover song "Had Gadya", performed by Chava Alberstein. The song "Ain Ani" by Shotei Hanevua also plays in the taxi at the end of the film.


  • Natalie Portman as Rebecca. Partly Israeli, partly American, she left New York City to live in Jerusalem but has no family of her own there.
  • Hanna Laslo as Hanna. After being expelled from Sinai, she established with her husband in the Negev.
  • Hiam Abbass as Leila. A Palestinian Arab, rejected by her own son for her modern mores.
  • Carmen Maura as Mrs. Breitberg. The mother of Julio. In the final cut, she only appears in a superimposed flashback.
  • Makram Khoury as Samir, the American. A Palestinian orphan who was a refugee in Texas. Now living as a car trader in a Free Zone oasis.
  • Aki Avni as Julio. Rebecca's former fiancé of Spanish-Jewish origin. They separated after he told her that he had raped a Palestinian refugee during a military operation.
  • Liron Levo as military officer in the border with Jordan .


Free Zone received negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 26% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 46 reviews, with an average score of 5/10. The website's consensus reads, "The symbolism in this cinematic metaphor on conflicts in the Middle East becomes so overbearing that it's hard to care about the characters or their plight."[1]


In the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, Hanna Laslo won the Best Actress award, and the film was nominated for the Palme d'Or.[2] The president of the jury said afterward he considered honoring all three Free Zone actresses with an award for best ensemble acting.


During filming at Jerusalem's Western Wall on February 23, 2005, Israeli Police asked actors and film crew to leave after protests from Orthodox Jews who were praying there while the crew filmed a kissing scene between Natalie Portman and Israeli actor Aki Avni. The scene was not included in the final cut of the film.[3]


  1. ^ "Free Zone – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Free Zone". Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  3. ^ "". Actors In Kissing Scene Chased From Western Wall. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2006-12-10.

External links[edit]

An Allegorical Plea for Harmony in the Middle East in 'Free Zone'. New York Times.