Featured at the 29th Annual Boston Jewish Film Festival
For showtimes visit bjff.org
In Between, directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, continues the dialogue about the equality of women. The movie begins with an older woman waxing a young female leg and sharing advice: “Don’t raise your voice, men don’t like women who raise their voices. Remember to always say a kind word, and cook him good food. Don’t forget to put on perfume and to keep your body smooth so that he desires you.”
Music then explodes and we’re at a wild, co-ed, bachelorette party in Tel Aviv with drinking, drugs, and dancing—the central characters’ regular singles backdrop. Beautiful Laila (Mouna Hawa) with long curly locks and a cigarette always in hand, appears bored with this dating scene. Back home the next day, she and her housemate Salma (Sana Jammelieh ) meet an unexpected visitor, Noar (Shaden Kanboura), who’s come to stay with them until she can find her own apartment. Noar explains that her cousin Rafif—Laila and Salma’s absent roommate—said it would be all right. These few opening scenes set the stage for a look at the experience of young Palestinian-Israeli women in today’s urbane Tel Aviv. Laila’s a non-religious feminist lawyer, Salma’s a fringe DJ from a Christian family, and Noar’s a senior at the university and wears full Islamic garb.
Through each of the women’s stories related to their love lives, the film explores male domination, male attitudes toward women, and male abuses when their authority is crossed. Although the film focuses on experiences in today’s diverse Palestinian-Israeli culture, the treatment of Laila, Salma, and Noar is universal. The take-away, as the three women process the denouements of their relationships, is sad, to both them and to us: Men (or most), from lovers to fathers, just don’t get it, they can’t see it, so they can’t change. As if cemented into their behavioral genes, the men in the film (with parallels in other cultures) believe they are right about their entitlement to dominate—to tell women how to dress modestly, to not smoke, to stay at home with the kids—or to abuse them if the women resist. Women in the audience of this important movie freeze at moments when Laila, Salma, or Noar stand up for themselves to their men. We freeze fearing a physical blow, a bashing silencer instead of meaningful conversation. How do men in the audience feel during these tense, cowering moments? Undoubtedly the same. Then why can’t recognition of the problem on the screen translate to real-life consciousness about equality?
We witness one atrocious punishment against Noar by her fiancé Wissam (and compliments to Henry Andrawas for playing such a horrid role). The camera and audio focus intently on Wissam’s zipper going back up after he’s committed his brute crime of authority, and this focus makes the audience think how a man’s “instrument of lovemaking” also serves as a violent weapon. The three women helping each other through their relationship traumas give the audience another universal: women support, comfort, and work for each other and always have, and this community based on gender solidarity is the basis for their strength—their stamina, wisdom, friendship, and bedrock role in all societies. These qualities, so deep in women, contrast to the male strength of body and physical force. Thus the movie honors women but cannot say there will ever be changes in their relationships with men.