In Between

Welcome to the third in a series of film reviews which will highlight some of the most interesting issues facing our region. Watching movies and reading books about somewhere you visited is a great way to reminisce and avoid forgetting the places you went, the things you saw and the people you met. It's also a great way to prepare and get excited for an upcoming trip!

Last week we reviewed The Gatekeepers. This week we are covering...

They say you should write about what you know. Director Maysaloun Hamoud appears to have done just that in the clever, subtle and personal film بَر بَحَر - Bar Bahar, known in English as In Between (or finally in Hebrew לא פה, לא שם, 'Neither here nor there'). She was born in Budapest to Palestinian parents, and grew up between Europe, Beersheva and Jerusalem. The film tells the story of three very different Palestinian women, all citizens of Israel, living in Tel Aviv and has all the hallmarks of a very personal story.

Salma is a gay DJ from a Christian family in Nazareth, sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv with Leila, a party-girl by night and successful lawyer by day, from a Muslim family. They break societal norms together by doing drugs, speaking their minds and even just working. These things are of course not necessarily connected, but the two women live lives very different from their families. They are joined by Noor, a hijab wearing student from Umm al-Fahm who has come to Tel Aviv to study computer science. This is despite her husband-to-be protesting that it is a waste of time - she will be at home with the kids soon anyway. The story revolves around Noor's entrance into this world and the pull she feels back to her home town.

While the characters somewhat revert to type, and some - including Noor's macho, controlling Arab fiancé - are cardboard stereotypes, there are not so many alternative films out there about Arab women so to an extent it can be forgiven. There are even fewer films which present the stories of three such diverse characters while exploring the struggles and eventual sisterhood they share.

The film also highlights the casual racism Arab citizens of Israel regularly face. One of the opening scenes shows Salma being yelled at by the manager of a restaurant she works in for speaking Arabic too loudly in the kitchen with her co-workers, lest it upset the customers. Hamoud does not dwell on this moment; the film is not about this racism, rather we watch the characters' stories unfold alongside this racism.

In many ways it is also a film about Tel Aviv. The contradictions and contrasts inherent in the city known as 'Tel A-bubble' are beautifully highlighted throughout. One particularly insightful scene shows Salma applying for a new job in a typical Tel Aviv bar. The bar tender absentmindedly notes her accent and asks her if she from South America. She smirks and tells him she is a Palestinian and he simply replies 'cool'. Like most Tel Avivis, he is young, has no problem with working with Arabs, but probably doesn't know any personally, and finds it as exotic as working with a girl from Bogota or Buenos Aires. This moment is so emblematic of the tragic state of separation between young Arabs and Jews in the region today. Crafting this moment in an amusing way and showing it to the audience through the eyes of the young woman who is made to feel a foreigner in her own country is quite striking, and is just one example of an easily missed line in a film packed full of such moments.

It's also just a fun movie to watch. It doesn't feel like an educational documentary but it will have exposed some of the key issues facing Palestinian women in Israel today to a wide audience. In this way, it does accomplish an important goal and as Hamoud's first feature film it is quite an achievement. 

To better understand the Tel Aviv this movie exposes, why not join us for a walking tour? We tour both Jaffa and Tel Aviv together, several times a week and you can visit many of the places seen in the film with us.


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