Saturday, 7 October 2017

In Between

Bar Bahar

Maysaloun Hamoud (writer/director), 2016, Israel-France

In Tel Aviv, three women share an apartment and try to find their place in a patriarchal society that admonishes them as soon as they show independence. 

A vibrant drama with magnificent performances from the three leads -  Mouna Hawa, Sana Jemmelieh and Shaden Kanboura. Into the world of a sassy, sexy lawyer and a lesbian DJ comes the more traditional girl, and the stage seems set for a conflict of their personalities. But this isn’t the case for they have a greater shared enemy with a culture that demands they repress their individuality and parades them before disapproving men and families. Their affinity as women emerges as stronger. 

Even if there may be a more obvious political backdrop to call upon, Hamoud’s Palestinian drama  is set in the no less political world of gender roles. The conflict between traditional demands and the context of modern society proves their central dilemma. Why don’t they just get married? Layla (Hawa) just wants good time to let off steam from being a smart lawyer and although she can casually tell a colleague who makes advance they should keep their relationship fun and flirty, she’s not above being smitten. Salma (Jemmelieh) is perfectly as ease with herself but being outed is something else. Nour (Kenboura) plays by all the traditional rules – wears a Hijab; is deferential to her fiancé – only to find that that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be treated right. And so there’s no surprises because these are usual dramas – and yes, there will be a dancing-in-the-lounge moment – but it’s energetic and daring as a tale of modern Israeli-Palestinian women trying to kick against an old world conception of gender. Even if Nour’s tale does veer into something touching on thriller, it also clearly heads that way to show that the woman have to bond together and try more desperate measures to deal with issues when it’s obvious that there’s no help forthcoming elsewhere. 

It’s loose-limbed, funny, mature and engaging and although the end leaves them a little stranded, the impression is that these women are just getting started (as the title implies). As if to prove Hamoud right, she has had a fatwa placed on her due to simply making this film about and for women. Dabbed with neon-inflected credits and a dance tunes, the tone is far from downbeat and even if the world seems to be doing these women no favours, their upbeat defiance will surely leave the world trying to catch up with them and not vice-versa.                                

No comments: