Film "In Between" Touches Outdated Morals and Explores Progressive Attitudes Uncommon in the Middle East
By: Emiliya Strahilova/Contributing Writer
Maysaloun Hamoud sends us to the reality of modern-day Tel Aviv where, according to one of the main characters in the story, lethargy prevails. Nothing in this movie is flashy, pretentious or in any way arrogant-just bold and uncompromising. It’s in between the outdated morals and the progressive attitudes; in between historically and geographically, and simply in between personal human dramas.
“In most cases, the direct political story is the one of importance, the one in which Palestinian women are usually represented as being victimized,” states Hamoud, “I want to show that women exist among us, but are, at the same time, transparent in cinematic imagery.” She goes on and says: “The film presents a range of female figures, young and old, town and country dwellers, more traditional and less traditional while ensuring real femininity and not just one model of beauty.”
The plot of In Between is built around the camaraderie of three Palestinian women who live together and are challenged by the cultural limitations of the world they were born in.
Leila and Salma are free-spirited friends who party hard, smoke, drink, and occasionally get high. One is a successful lawyer and the other one is switching between being a chef, bartender, and a DJ. They both feel comfortable with their unconventional lifestyles but one day Nour arrives. She is a Muslim from a conservative family and doesn’t seem to fit in the picture. However, she never judges her flatmates and it turns out she is curious and fun loving just as any other healthy person at her age. This is how the bond among the girls starts.
Later, we witness each of their individual stories. Laila has a clash of views with a man she falls in love with, Salma is denied by her traditional Christian family because of her sexuality, and Nour is raped by her “pious” fiance. What unites the destinies of these women is their will to be true to themselves, despite the resistance they meet in the face of the society. They are proud and not shaken by the fear of being alone.
Although In Between is an inspiring tale about individualism, this is not the only theme in it. The movie reveals the moods of contemporary Arabs in the center of Tel Aviv, without being political. The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is never directly mentioned but can be sensed in few scenes in which Hamoud provokes the audience in a subtle and elegant manner.
One of them is in the restaurant where Salma works. She obviously is having a bad day when the manager comes and criticizes her for speaking Arabic, he explains to her that Arabic hurts customers’ feelings. Salma’s reaction is harsh and eloquent.
It’s remarkable how a lot of powerful and meaningful messages in the film are wrapped around innocent dialogues. They reflect the everyday life accurately and simultaneously invite the viewers to think deeper.
In one of the conversations between Leila and her boyfriend Zaid, he questions her why can’t she follow the philosophy “Dress as people want, but eat what you want.”. She answers back that she chooses to dress as she wants AND eat what she wants. None of the three women is hiding or pretending. In that sense, In Between is about being who you want whether or not that makes you a rebel or a feminist.
Another layer, implemented skilfully by the director, is showing the relationship between Christians and Muslims. There is no opposition or rage and we don’t even know the religion of most of the characters. For example, being rigid and backward belongs both to Nour’s and Salma’s families. One is Christian and the other Muslim. It’s also interesting how Nour’s father stands behind her in a situation where traditionally the woman can be blamed in the Muslim culture. Once again Maysaloun Hamoud is letting go of prevalent stereotypes.
The film was very well received by critics, it won numerous awards at international festivals and was highly ranked by fans, but it was proclaimed sinful by more religious Middle Eastern groups. Hamoud admits that she was threatened and was even issued a fatwa. She commented that the film was a portrait of Israel underground, the same down-to-earth underground that exists in any other country. It might not be visible to everyone but is certainly there.
The noise around In Between has reached the U.S. too and now the movie can be seen in theatres throughout the country. Click here for locations.