2017 Washington Jewish Film Festival: In Between

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It is the time now for women to come and speak up. Until now, we were listening to men, and they were the ones to run everything. -Maysaloun Hamoud (writer/director)

Arab-Israelis make up about 20 percent of Israel’s citizenry. They share the same ethnicity, language, and culture of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; many identify as Palestinians rather than Israeli. This film (written and directed by 35 y.o. Maysaloun Hamoud- pictured below) tells the story of three 20-ish Arab women (two Muslim and one Christian) who have left their hometowns to work/study in Tel Aviv. They find themselves stuck between traditional Arab society (which values modesty, virginity, arranged marriage) and a more open/Westernized Israeli society (w/ dating, alcohol, drugs).

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Laila (Mouna Hawa) is an attorney sharing an apt. w/ close friend, Salma (Sana Jammeieh). Into their world enters Noor (Shaden Kanboura), a hijabi Computer Science major who is prepping for finals. We can see that the pals are dismayed to be stuck w/ this new roomie. Though Noor is religious, she is NOT judgmental re: Laila and Salma’s smoking, drinking, and parties w/ a diverse group of friends. She focuses on studying and keeping in touch with her fiance, Wissam. She cooks for him when he comes over to her new place. Wissam keeps pressuring her to move up the date of their wedding. He does NOT approve of her new building or roomies (who slowly become her friends). 

Laila (who loves to flirt) starts seriously dating a man, Ziad, who had his eye on her from a wedding they both attended. Ziad is VERY attracted to Laila, particularly b/c she is an uninhibited/beautiful/strong woman. Salma quits her restaurant job, after she and a fellow Palestinian coworker are yelled at by their (Israeli) boss for joking around (in Arabic) in the kitchen. She also has to deal w/ dinners set-up by her wealthy parents to introduce her to single men. 

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[1] …the movie is also very much about sisters doing it for themselves. There’s an automatic solidarity whereby women– at least young women of similar ages– are all automatically soulmates; and men, it almost goes without saying, are swine. Despite those stereotypes, the movie holds interest by virtue of believable acting and believable situations. 

[2] The three women characters were believable, warm, expressing solidarity to each other despite their very different personalities and lifestyles. The theme of personal conflicts between tradition and modernity is not new. What makes this film different is that the issues are very real and current and those outside the tradition don’t see it. 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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5 thoughts on “2017 Washington Jewish Film Festival: In Between

  1. Oh, I also found out that this movie was banned in a Palestinian city. The director got some death threats (b/c of troubling events depicted & liberal lifestyles of two of the characters). Seems like a LOT of ppl can’t handle reality that is going on in modern world…

    • It’s so true (and not just in Palestine). I was at a family party Saturday that really almost threw me into despair. I try to tell myself those people will eventually die, but they seem to continue to perpetuate their attitudes.

  2. Interesting. I’ve always thought that it’s one dimension of the Israeli / Palestinian question that gets lost in the political discussion — Israelis are among the most secular people of the world vs Palestianians, many of whom are very traditional.

    • Oh yeah, I learned a BIT re: Israel from classmates, incl a V smart/chatty Israeli lady who married a Jewish man from Tucson (my hometown). She drove jeep in Army as a young woman & said that Israelis are some of the most extroverted/opinionated ppl in the world.

      • Yeah, there’s a definite “sabra” (Jew born / raised in Israel) vibe that even becomes an occasional issue inside the US Jewish communities.

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