Contemporary World Cinema

In Between

Maysaloun Hamoud

In director Maysaloun Hamoud’s remarkable feature debut, three Palestinian women sharing an apartment in the vibrant heart of Tel Aviv find themselves doing the same balancing act between tradition and modernity, citizenship and culture, fealty and freedom.

Arab Israeli women live in a country that considers them not quite Israeli enough, and are part of a culture that views them as not quite Palestinian enough. Layered onto their citizenship conundrum are the inevitable gendered tensions between contemporary and traditional family life. Director Maysaloun Hamoud tells the story of three such women in her remarkable feature film debut In Between, and she does so with ferocity, grace, and inordinate depth of feeling.

Lalia (Mouna Hawa), Salma (Sana Jammelieh), and Nur (Shaden Kanboura) share an apartment in the vibrant heart of Tel Aviv. Lalia, a criminal lawyer with a wicked wit, loves to burn off her workday stress in the underground club scene. Salma, slightly more subdued, is a DJ and bartender. Nur is a younger, religious Muslim girl who moves into the apartment in order to study at the university.

Nur is both intrigued and intimidated by her two sophisticated roommates. When her conservative fiancé visits, he is horrified by her secular friends, entreating her to hasten their marriage, leave Tel Aviv, and assume her rightful role as a wife. She refuses, and his violent rebuttal leaves all of the women shaken. Salma and Lalia also face turmoil: Lalia has found love with a modern Muslim man whose acceptance proves less than unconditional, and Salma discovers that her Christian family in a northern Galilean village is not as liberal as they claim. These three very different women find themselves doing the same balancing act between tradition and modernity, citizenship and culture, fealty and freedom.

In Between is a story of a certain kind of female friendship, a fierce bond that comes about because of shared gender, background, and hopes. The final shot of Hamoud's engaging and compelling film says everything about these unforgettable women.

JANE SCHOETTLE

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