Zaytoun (2012)


Zaytoun (Hebrew: זייתון, Arabic: زيتون, romanised: Zaytūn, “Olive”) is a 2012 Israeli adventure thriller film directed by Eran Riklis and produced by Gareth Unwin and Fred Ritzenberg.

It premiered in September 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival.


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, where Fahed intends to plant an olive tree that his father had been tending in Beirut. 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.


  • Stephen Dorff as Yoni.
  • Abdallah El Akal as Fahed.
  • Loai Noufi as Aboudi.
  • Ashraf Barhom.
  • Alice Taglioni as Leclair.
  • Ali Suliman as Syrian soldier.
  • Tarik Kopty as Seedo.
  • Mira Awad as Im Ahmed.
  • Ashraf Farah as Khaled.
  • Morad Hassan as Rami.
  • Doraid Liddawi as Syrian soldier.
  • Jony Arbid as Abu Fahed.
  • Nidal Badarneh as Mustafa.
  • Osamah Khoury as Hassan.


Most of the Beirut scenes were filmed in Haifa.


Zaytoun received mixed reviews.


The screenwriter 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. 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 where “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 changes to Rizq’s script include:

  • Opening the film with a slide stating that the Israeli attack on Lebanon was a response to rocket attacks when a ceasefire had been in place for months.
  • Removing Israeli cluster, phosphorus and air raids.
  • Removal of a scene showing the effects of Israeli phosphorus and cluster bombing on the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut (despite being in the script for years).
  • Changing the killing of an Arab child by a phosphorus attack to being targeted by a Lebanese sniper instead.
  • Limiting Israeli air raids attacks as initially described in the script.
  • Decreasing the number of Israeli attacks while increasing Arabic violence.
  • Depicting forced child soldiering among Palestinian youth.
  • The original script planned to depict the Israeli pilot humanely reacting to the Arabic victims of Israeli bombing. This was never filmed and instead changed to him reacting to an Arabic woman killed senselessly by a group of Arabic militia.
  • The final scene called for Fahed, on reaching his ancestral village and lands, to conclude: “Baba… I’m home”. This was changed to “Baba… I’m here”.


  • 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-finalled in the Ohio Independent Screenplay Awards.
    • In late 2007, American producer Fred Ritzenberg came aboard and helped further develop the script.
  • While not explicitly stated in the film, the word “zaytoun” is Arabic for “olive”, and refers to the tree that Fahed carries.
  • A painted poster is seen on wall, advertising a film, ‘Dos Amigos y Un Burro’, starring Sebastian Eldorado and Joaquin Pequeno.
    • The text is in Arabic and Spanish.
    • Both the film and actors appear to be fictitious.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Eran Riklis.
  • Producer(s):
    • Vivien Aslanian … co-producer: France.
    • Efrat Bigger … line producer.
    • Simon Breen … executive producer.
    • Pierre Buffin … executive producer: for BUF.
    • Olivier Cottet-Puinel … co-producer: France.
    • Saar Datner … line producer.
    • Stephen Dorff … executive producer.
    • Diana Dotter … co-producer.
    • Leon Edery … producer: Israel.
    • Moshe Edery … producer: Israel.
    • Simon Egan … executive producer: for Bedlam Productions.
    • Eric Hubert … supervising producer: Pathé.
    • Goran R. Lazovich … executive producer: for H W Buffalo.
    • Romain Le Grand … co-producer: France.
    • Jessica Malik … executive producer.
    • Milan Markovic … executive producer: for H W Buffalo.
    • Albert Martinez Martin … executive producer.
    • Steve Milne … executive producer: for British Film Company.
    • Simon Olswang … executive producer.
    • India Osborne … executive producer: BUF.
    • Eran Riklis … producer: Israel.
    • Frederick A. Ritzenberg … producer (as Fred Ritzenberg).
    • Ryan Ross … associate producer.
    • Muriel Sauzay … co-producer: France.
    • Lisbeth Savill … co-executive producer (as Libby Savill).
    • Alexandra Schinasi … associate producer.
    • Jérôme Seydoux … executive producer.
    • Olwyn Silvester … producer.
    • Gareth Unwin … producer (as Gareth Ellis-Unwin).
    • Ben Wilkinson … co-executive producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Nader Rizq.
  • Music:
    • Cyril Morin.
  • Cinematography:
    • Dan Lautsen.
  • Editor(s):
    • Herve Schneid.
  • Production:
    • Bedlam Productions.
    • Far Films.
    • H.W. Buffalo & Co.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Pathé (2013) (France) (theatrical).
    • Senator Film (2013) (Germany) (theatrical).
    • Strand Releasing (2013) (USA) (theatrical).
    • A-Film Benelux MSD (2014) (Netherlands) (DVD).
    • Blue Swan Entertainment (2017) (Italy) (all media).
    • Culture Publishers (CP) (2013) (Japan) (DVD).
    • Film1 (2015) (Netherlands) (TV) (limited).
    • Senator Home Entertainment (2014) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Senator Home Entertainment (2014) (Germany) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • Telepool (2013) (Germany) (all media).
  • Release Date: 09 September 2012 (Toronto International Film Festival, Canada).
  • Rating: 15.
  • Running Time: 110 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Clip(s)

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