A sleeper hit at the S.F. Fest, Hanna Elias’ “The Olive Harvest” effectively integrates a simple, involving tale of romantic love, tradition and family loyalty into the larger climate of unease in a Palestinian countryside vulnerable to aggressive Israeli settlers. Pic is pleasing until third act’s crude melodramatics. Potential for ancillary sales for this U.S.-financed film is upbeat, with limited theatrical possible.
Mazen (Maazen Saade) has been released from prison, having set fire to encroaching settlements 15 years earlier. He’s welcomed back by all, especially younger brother Taher (Taher Najeeb), who monitors settlers’ movements in his city job. Latter wants to wed beauteous Raeda (Raeda Adon), but tradition decrees he wait until elder sib marries. Misunderstandings lead to argument between the junior couple, then the two men become bitter rivals over Raeda. Modest but flavorful pic draws a lilt from the beautiful locations, attractive thesps and repressed sensuality of traditional culture in which even casual touch before wedlock is improper. Cast of newcomers is impressive, as are local icon Muhamad Bacri (as Raeda’s dying father) and vet Arren Umari (her citified sister). Still, last reel’s histrionics constitute a serious flaw.