Bar Bahar (In Between)CultureCinemaMovie reviews
A debut film for Arab-Israeli filmmaker Maysaloun Hamoud – and culturally a controversial feminist piece – In Between is an intriguing story about three very different Israeli Palestinian women who share an apartment in Tel Aviv and become bonded in a world of confusing and conflicting values.
Laila (Mouna Hawa) is a confident, edgy attorney with a strong liberated outlook and a penchant for partying, Salma (Sana Jammelieh) is a gay bartender/chef/DJ who is harshly rejected by her Christian parents when they discover she’s a lesbian, and Nour (Shaden Kanboura) is a conservative Muslim who wears a hijab and is engaged by arrangement to a man she does not love.
In both Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles, the film touches slightly on the Arab/Israeli cultural clash with scenes such as an employer forbidding the speaking of Arabic, and Laila’s not allowing her interaction with a Jewish lawyer to extend beyond flirtation. However, for the most part, Tel Aviv is depicted as a cosmopolitan city where people from varying backgrounds and faiths live in harmony and the most significant struggles derive from divergences in orthodox versus contemporary attitudes and standards.
Initially the three women seem quite different from one another, but as the narrative progresses, realities and truths are revealed that make them realise nothing is what they thought, and they are bonded by their shared experiences and tribulations. Laila discovers that her boyfriend is more traditional than she knew, and that she will not change herself for any man. Salma finds out that her family considers her sexuality to be a sickness for which they threaten to have her committed. Nour achieves self-discovery and enlightenment, especially after enduring a shocking trauma that discloses her fiancé’s true nature. Yet the point is more about being true to one’s self than rejecting conservative principles per se – as they don’t quite fit into the hard partying environment of their entourage – and about navigating within the hypocrisy of a world with drastically opposing codes of behaviour.
With beautiful cinematography by Itay Gross, the atmosphere of In Between is uplifting amid the drama. The writing is witty, thought-provoking and poignant and all the actors are excellent, especially Hawa, Jammelieh and Kanboura. Depicting a very sophisticated, relatively socially harmonious Tel Aviv in a part of the globe that is often characterised in terms of conflict, the work is moving, entertaining and revealing.
Bar Bahar (In Between) is released nationwide on 22nd September 2017.
Watch the trailer for Bar Bahar (In Between) here: