Film on Arab-Israeli women in Tel Aviv tests taboos

Sunday 05/02/2017
A scene from the movie In Between. (Deux Beaux Garcon Films)

Jerusalem - A film about Arab-Israeli women who left their vil­lages to live in Tel Aviv has angered traditional­ists in Israel’s Arab com­munity, who say its depiction of ho­mosexuality and independent single women is insulting.
In Between, which has an Arab director and a Jewish producer, won two awards — Best Debut Fea­ture Film and Artistic Achievement in an Israeli Feature Film — at the Haifa International Film Festival in October and accolades in Toronto and San Sebastian with its portrayal of three very different women who share an apartment in Israel’s most liberal city.
Layla is a lawyer and liberal Mus­lim who parties every night; Salma, from a traditional Christian family, is gay and works as a DJ and bar­tender; and Nour is a devout Muslim computer student whose Muslim fi­ancé rapes her.
“The women have chosen to seek a modern life by abandoning the customs and traditions of their home villages but at the same time, as ethnic Palestinians in Tel Aviv, they encounter discrimination,” director Maysaloun Hamoud said. “They just can’t win.”
The film addresses issues that some of Israel’s Arabs, who make up about 20% of the country’s 8.5 million people, prefer not to see on screen.
The conservative leadership of Umm al-Fahm, a large Arab Israeli town that features in the film, has called for a boycott of the movie.
“We support art that has a pur­pose and art that criticises the nega­tive aspects of our society, but we oppose a movie that distorts the im­age of Umm al-Fahm,” said Abed Al- Monem Fuad, a spokesman for the municipality.
Sana Jammelieh, who plays Sal­ma, said it was time for Israel’s Arab community to address the movie’s subject matter.
“No one wants to talk about ho­mosexuality or a woman who feels free enough to party all night and drink alcohol but they should be discussed so (Arab society) can catch up with the modern world,” she said.
Mouna Hawa, who plays Layla, said she expected the criticism but added that it did not worry her: “It took courage to make this film but I feel convinced that it reflects many real lives in our society.”