Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 5, 2018

In Between

Filed under: Film,Palestine — louisproyect @ 9:51 pm

Opening at both Landmark Theaters in N.Y. (57th and East Houston) today, “In Between” is a compelling drama about three Arab women sharing and apartment as well as the struggle against patriarchy. Comparable in some ways to women in hipster Brooklyn, they are intelligent, resourceful, and bold. They fall along a spectrum of feminism, however.

Leila, an attorney, (Mouna Hawa) is the most willing to challenge sexism outright. She meets a man at a wedding party who invites her out to a terrace to smoke a joint, which she accepts eagerly. After they smoke, he makes a pass at her only to hear her laugh and say, “Are you kidding?”

Salma (Sana Jammelieh) is a lesbian who works different jobs endemic to the gig economy. Her preference is for DJ’ing but she is not above bartending or working in a kitchen. Still in the closet to her traditional-minded family, she likes to hang out with Leila. Every night is a party. They go to dance clubs, score weed, drink beer out of a bottle and pal around with male buddies including a gay man.

One day, Leila and Salma learn that the daughter of a family friend is going to rent the spare bedroom in their capacious apartment. When Noor (Shaden Kanboura) rings the downstairs buzzer, they let her in and open the door to watch her coming up the stairs. To their surprise, she is wearing a hijab and the long flowing robe that is the uniform of women living in the Arab countryside. What sets her apart from other such women is her determination to get a degree in computer science, no matter what it takes. Even if that means defying her fiancé Wissam (Henry Andrawes) who is an appalling sexist pig.

What gives this tale a different dynamic than what you might expect from the description above is that all three women are Palestinians living in Tel Aviv.

Except for two brief moments, Israelis do not figure in the film at all. When Salma is in the kitchen, a chef asks her to bring her a couple of lemons as if her job was to be his flunky. Clearly busy with chopping onions, she picks up a lemon and throws it across the room to him with it barely missing his head. As they begin to bicker with each other in Arabic, the owner enters the kitchen and warns them against speaking in their native tongue since it might upset the customers. Without hesitation, Salma removes her apron, folds it up and hands it over to the boss.

Smoking a cigarette outside the courthouse, Leila is approached by an Israeli attorney who is prosecuting her Palestinian client. In haggling over a possible plea bargain, it is clear that the Israeli is trying to hit on her for the hundredth time. Can’t they discuss the case over dinner? She smiles and advises him that she would be too much for him to handle.

The real drama involves Noor attempting to carve out a life as an independent woman, even if that means sharing an apartment with two women who are challenges to the strictures of Islam. Smoking, drinking, taking drugs, and lesbianism are not acceptable to Wissam but his demands that she move into another apartment are not acceptable to her. Slowly but surely under the influence of the two freedom-loving roommates, Noor becomes liberated even if that means continuing to wear a hijab at a rave.

“In Between” is directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, a Palestinian woman who was born and raised in Budapest. Palestinian religious leaders have called for a boycott against the film and earned her the first fatwa to be issued in Palestine since 1948. While clearly understanding the need for Palestinian identity as demonstrated by the kitchen scene as well as her 2010 film “Sense of Morning” that was based on a novel by the Palestinian national poet Mahmud Darwish, Hamoud told the Guardian that she had another need to fulfill in making this beautiful and inspiring film:

Western audiences seem to want to feel they are better, that their hopes and dreams are unique and different and authentic to ours. It is not true. We are human beings with the same stories, same dilemmas, we have the same feelings. Every big city has the underground culture I show – we hear the same music, there are the same drugs, in each country. The film is successful all over the world because people can relate.




  1. Thank you for the brief review, I hope the film receives a wider release.

    Comment by S M J — January 6, 2018 @ 3:48 am

  2. Nice! This sounds cool.

    Comment by absurdsearcher — January 14, 2018 @ 11:01 pm

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