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Free Zone (film)

Free Zone is a 2005 film directed by Amos Gitai. Shot in Israel and Jordan, the Israel-Belgium-French-Spain production stars Israeli Jewish actress Hanna Laslo, Israeli Arab actress Hiam Abbass, and Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman.

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.


Rebecca (Natalie Portman), an American girl who has a Jewish father, 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 in the Jordan-Iraq-Saudi border 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 Gadia" performed by Chava Alberstein.


In the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, Hanna Laslo won the Best Actress award, and the film was nominated for the Palme d'Or. 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 religious Jews who were praying there at the famous "Wailing Wall" 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.


Actor Role
Natalie Portman Rebecca.
Hanna Laslo Hanna. After being expelled from Sinai, she established with husband in the Negev.
Hiam Abbass Leila. A Palestinian Arab, rejected by her own son for her modern mores.
Carmen Maura Mrs. Breitberg, the mother of Julio. In the final cut, she only appears in a superimposed flashback.
Makram Khoury 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 Julio, Rebecca's boyfriend.


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