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“Hypocrisy is everywhere, not only in the Muslim world”

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Maysaloun Hamoud • Director

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- We met up with Maysaloun Hamoud, the young Palestinian director of In Between, which hits Italian screens on 6 April and is released in France on 12 April

Maysaloun Hamoud  • Director
(© Paolo Jacob)

Thirty-five-year-old Palestinian director Maysaloun Hamoud was born in Budapest and grew up in Deir Hanna, Israel, before doing her film studies at the Minshar School of Art in Tel Aviv. Her debut film, In Between [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Maysaloun Hamoud
film profile
]
, hits Italian screens on 6 April, courtesy of Tucker Film, and is released in France on 12 April via Paname. Having been awarded at various festivals (such as Haifa, San Sebastián and Toronto), this co-production between Israeli outfit DBG and France’s En Compagnie Des Lamas portrays the lives of three young Palestinian women in a liberal Tel Aviv: Laila (Mouna Awa), a disenchanted lawyer in her thirties in search of true love; Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a homosexual barmaid and DJ who revels in a life of inhibition; and Nour (Shaden Kanboura), a computer-science student who is a devout Muslim. All three will struggle with the intransigence and intolerance of the patriarchal system that they all come from. The fundamentalists have not taken kindly to Maysaloun’s feminist film: from the ultra-conservative village of Umm al-Fahm, in the West Bank (which is actually referred to in the film), a fatwa was issued targeting the young filmmaker. As the director points out, this has not happened in Palestine for 70 years.

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Cineuropa: The Western viewer will no doubt be struck by this lifestyle in Tel Aviv, which is so unrestrained, especially for the main characters in the film, who are Arab women.
Maysaloun Hamoud: This Western vision is almost certainly a stereotype. We are like those girls; we just want to be ourselves and not live life in any particular way. We are human beings, and one is very different from another! What you see in the film is the life that that generation of Palestinians leads in Israel, and it is not depicted very often in cinema. I am part of that way of life, as is the majority of the film’s cast, and my intention was precisely to capture that reality.

At the Berlin Film Festival, an award was given to a Polish film, United States of Love [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Tomasz Wasilewski
film profile
]
by Tomasz Wasilewski, in which four women delude themselves after the fall of the wall by thinking they can fully enjoy their freedom. That film highlighted the damage done by communism and Catholicism, and your movie again shines the spotlight on religion and male hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is everywhere, not only in the Muslim world. Those who are religious want to rule over everything in the name of a “better world”. But they use religious faith for their own personal benefit. Like the Polish film you mentioned, my movie tackles a topic that is pretty universal; it’s not only about Arab women. These behaviours and these problems are present all around the world, in Europe, the Middle East, the USA, Latin America and Africa. The Western world may think it is better, but the statistics relating to women don’t lie!

Of the male characters in the film, the only one who redeems himself is the father of the student, Nour, who professes his unwavering trust in his daughter.
In my film, there are no good or bad men, just human beings who behave according to the traditions that they come from. I’ve shown a range of models of the Arab man because I didn’t want to encourage stereotypes; on the contrary, I wanted to break them and portray human nature, complete with its varied range of character nuances. Certain behaviours towards women are not a question of which religion these people belong to. Salma’s father, who is an Arab Christian, reacts in exactly the same way as a Jew or a Muslim would. It’s a matter of cultural tradition.

Was it difficult to secure funding from the Israel Film Fund?
I’m a Palestinian national with Israeli citizenship, just like 20% of the population, and I have the right to obtain funding because I pay taxes. But it’s not that easy to be a director or an artist, because the Palestinians in Israel are discriminated against. I don’t have any problem with Jews, but I do with the Zionists, and they also have a problem with me. The Jewish producer of the film, Shlomi Elkabetz (Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), who was my film-studies teacher in Tel Aviv, is a true genius and a very generous man with whom I have a very strong relationship. It was a real boon for my film, and the partnership between us was a powerful one; it made it a lot easier to secure funding.

(Translated from Italian)

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