Hailed as a fresh, frank look at the lives of young Palestinian women, Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut film, “In Between,” follows three female roommates who share an apartment in Tel Aviv. There, they participate, to varying degrees, in the debauchery on offer in Israel’s cultural capital: dancing, drinking, smoking, taking drugs.
The movie is being talked about as a milestone. An article on CNN says, “‘In Between’ depicts alcohol consumption, drug taking, casual sex and homosexuality — topics Hamoud admits are seldom touched on in Arabic-language films.” The “split lives” of the protagonists, who have traditional Palestinian families but live away from them, “have rarely been depicted on screen,” a review in Variety says.
It’s true that Ms. Hamoud deftly portrays the world of modern, urban Palestinian women — the world to which she belongs — and explores how they are affected by constrictive, suffocating traditions. But she is far from alone on that front. Unlike Hollywood, Arab cinema is flush with female directors making films that deal with feminist issues.
In terms of contemporary Arab films, “In Between” is heavily reminiscent of “Caramel” (2007). Both films are about women from different social strata and religions: The female characters in “In Between” include a fierce criminal lawyer, a D.J. and a conservative university student; “Caramel” follows a group of women who work in or frequent a hair and waxing salon in Beirut. Both are about the restrictions the women are forced to abide by, and about love and vying for independence in a society in which marriage is regarded as the most desirable option for a woman. “Caramel” is directed by Nadine Labaki of Lebanon, who went on to make a second feature film in 2011, “Where Do We Go Now?,” a comedy about a mixed Christian-Muslim village where the women prevent the men from starting a religious war.