The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival aims to build bridges and educate people across communities in the metro area. Usually, that educational purpose involves teaching others about Judaism or Jewish themes, but the drama “In Between” has a lot to teach Jewish Atlanta about the non-Jewish side of Israeli society.
It’s the story of three Arab women, one of whom is devoutly Muslim, sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv, where two of the women, Laila and Salma, are living the cosmopolitan life they might lead in any big city in the world.
Except, of course, they are Arabs in Israel, and from the start we get to experience through them the disconnect inherent in being non-Jews in the Jewish state.
They go shopping, and the saleswoman keeps a wary eye on them without offering them any help. Salma, doing prep work in a restaurant kitchen, dares to joke with a co-worker in Arabic, only to be chastised by her boss because the sound of Arabic disturbs the diners. And the casual flirting Laila carries on with a fellow lawyer comes screeching to a halt when he suggests doing more than talking and she laughs off the idea of his taking her home to meet his Jewish mom for dinner.
But those discomforts are taken as a part of everyday life, and once first-time director Maysaloun Hamoud establishes that baseline, she leaves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict behind. “In Between” shows that Israel’s Arabs, particularly the women, have enough problems without obsessing over geopolitical realities.
Nour, the devout newcomer to the apartment, is the epitome of a woman whose potential is being stifled by patriarchal assumptions. Salma comes into conflict with her family over her sexuality. Laila’s love life is frustrated by a religious divide.
The filmmaking is not flawless — Hamoud could do with some tighter editing — but the storytelling, character development and acting are mesmerizing.