In Between – David Vass previews this Wednesday’s film

The idea of a dope-smoking, leather-jacketed lawyer and an aspiring DJ, opening up their home to a strait-laced, studious, ultra-conservative Muslim sounds like the setup for a credulity stretching social drama, but in the hands of director Maysaloun Hamoud, it is merely the starting point for an enlightening, if occasionally grim, examination of a world hidden in plain sight.

At one point, a character warns that “this is not Europe”, which is perhaps the key to the limits of our understanding, as a European audience, of Hamoud’s remarkably assured debut feature. As far as it goes, we can empathise with the three women depicted, and the challenges they face, but they are caught in between freedom and repression, and in between religion and secularism, in a way we its difficult to truly embrace or understand. Hamoud’s subtle screenplay feels strikingly authentic, but one senses there is a cultural subtext that passes us by. Nonetheless, committed performances from leads Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammalieh and Shaden Kanboura ensure the drama is never less than engaging, with the injustices meted out to Palestinian woman in Israel, not least by their own families, both shocking and infuriating.

Our profound ignorance of what is going on in Israel is, perhaps unintentionally, one of the film’s most telling lessons. Given the death threats and fatwas Hamoud has since received from fundamentalists, it’s clear she has touched a nerve. My guess is that she’s also got very close to the truth.

by David Vass