Don’t raise your voice. Men don’t like women with raised voices

In Between review: Tel Aviv gets the Broad City treatment in this terrific female-centered feature

In Between

Film Title: In Between

Director: Maysaloun Hamoud

Starring: Mouna Hawa, Shaden Kanboura, Sana Jammelieh

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 96 min

Fri, Oct 6, 2017, 05:00

   

Palestinian director Maysaloun Hamoud, has said she wants to “stir things up” with her movies. This is no idle rhetoric: her wonderful, spiky debut feature, In Between, has resulted in her being issued with a fatwa and several death threats.

The film, which concerns three young Arab women sharing an apartment in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, opens with a stern lecture and a sugar wax that’s so vigorous you fear it will end with corrective skin grafting: “Don’t raise your voice; men don’t like women with raised voices; remember to always say a kind word and cook him good food; don’t let on that you know what you are doing.”

Such advice is never going to sit well with Layla (Mouna Hawa), a fashionable, defiantly curly haired lioness-lawyer who enjoys smoking, drinking, snorting and teasing (“Let’s keep our flirtation fun,” she warns her Jewish colleague). She hopes to find a man who is as liberated as she is: might Ziad (Mahmoud Shalab), a film-maker who has lived abroad and who shares her penchant for partying, be the one?

Laila lives and boozes with Salma (Sana Jammalieh), an aspiring DJ who adds to the film’s killer underground soundtrack and whose strict Christian parents don’t know she’s gay.

Returning to her rural home, she is invariably meets potential matches, such as the “catch” who refers to himself in the third person and boasts that he sells 1,000 chickens a day in his supermarkets. Will Salma be able to tell her increasingly frantic mother about Dounia (Ahlam Canaan), the trainee doctor she has fallen for?

When conservative hijab-wearing graduate student Nour (Shaden Kanboura) arrives in the shared apartment from northern Israel, the stage looks set for a culture clash. Instead, the hypocrisies or Nour’s dour fiance, Wissam (Henry Andrawes), inspire bonding and a cunning plan hatched between the three women.

Picture an inverted Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in the White City. For all the ketamine and banging tunes (including an original score by MG Saad), the central triumvirate are fighting for their small freedoms. Itay Gross’s camera both careers along the streets and boxes them into small indoor spaces.

The tension between individuality and tradition in Tel Aviv piques with their female experience. The men they hang out with, even the broadminded ones, we learn, are apt to ask a woman to quit smoking, while lighting up.

Who needs Sex & the City 3? A brave film befitting its brave depiction of women.