Leaving the cinema my friend turned to me and said, “Isn’t it amazing to see a film almost entirely from the female perspective?” I, of course, agreed. She paused for a minute before saying, “but why does it have to be so unusual?!”
It’s true that in most films it is rare to have female protagonists who are relatable, with real interests, careers and problems. Maysaloun Hamoud’s In Between not only passes the Bechdel Test so spectacularly that I can almost hear feminists around the world whooping with joy, but it also gives a voice to a group of women who are rarely represented in film.
The story of In Between follows the lives of three, young, Palestinian women, each in their own way looking for independence in Tel Aviv, Israel. Salma (Sana Jammalieh) is carving out a career as a DJ while by day she can be found working in kitchens or bars. Forced to hide more than just her tattoos from her parents, Salma begins a lesbian relationship with trainee doctor Dounia. This is a serious test of Salma’s relationship with her family.
Salma’s flatmate Laila (Malna Hawa) can match her shot for shot on their many nights out into the wild, underground party scene of Tel Aviv. Laila is a force to be reckoned with, often shutting down bullshit with one casual flick of her sharp tongue. She balances her successful law career and her new romance with bohemian Ziad. But Laila struggles when Ziad, faced with his family, exposes that he is not as liberal as he would like her to believe.
When hijab-wearing Nour (Shaden Kanboura) arrives from the more conservative city of Umm al Fahm, her bookish ways and dedication to computer science clash with the hard partying lifestyle of her new flatmates. Engaged to devout Wissam, Nour must be strong against the cultural traditions of her family when she learns tragically that he is not all that he seems.
While often women are pitted against each other on screen, it was a delight to watch a strong friendship blossom between Nour and her new flatmates. Whether it be taking revenge or abandoning a date to take a drunk friend home, it was evident how loyal these women were to each other.
In Between was beautifully made, each shot done in such a way that you felt like you were there as a silent bystander. As a result the more distressing shots had a bare reality to them which left you simultaneously captivated and appalled.
Parts of the soundtrack were recorded by the Palestinian hip hop group DAM, with the majority of their songs addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is another instance of the film’s political nature. In fact, Hamoud has received a strong backlash since the release of In Between. Ironically the home town of Nour, Umm al Fahm, banned women from watching the film and other groups criticised Hamoud for corrupting girls with her depiction of sex, drugs and her evaluation of Palestinian society.
In Between seems to me to have it all. It is funny and thought-provoking, full of both tragedy and feminist revenge. It shows how many young women are caught in the middle of traditional societal values and the changing attitudes of the world. All I can say now is to go and watch it! In Between is released by Peccadillo Pictures and is available on DVD and the BFI Player.
Featured image credit: Film Movement/Yaniv Berman