This summer, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a controversial law that defines the country as a “Jewish nation-state.” The law limits the right to exercise self-determination to the Jewish people by declaring Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital city of Israel; by enshrining settlement expansion as a “national value”; and by demoting Arabic from its former status as an official language to a language with an undefined “special status.” The spirit of the law suggests, through stipulations, that in the case of a conflict between the Jewish values of the State of Israel and its democratic ones — the Jewish values should always prevail. This new law codifies an already existent reality, and provides a timely backdrop to the screening of Palestinian director Maysaloun Hamoud’s film Bar Bahar (In Between, 2017), which was featured in “The Future of Film is Female” series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hamoud’s feature debut tells the story of three young Palestinian women who share an apartment in Tel Aviv, and their struggles to reconcile the expectations of their traditional families with the liberated but alienated lifestyle they enjoy in the big city.
Galilee-born Hamoud presents an energetic and taboo-breaking film about the overlooked and often unheard of population of young Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in predominantly Jewish cities, as the filmmaker herself does. It’s the first to address the issue of a twice-oppressed population of women — both by a patriarchal social order at home and a hostile and discriminating Israeli majority outside.
Laila (Muna Hawa), a liberated and strong-willed lawyer from the northern city of Nazareth, who parties as hard as she works, is in the director’s words “the superego of every Palestinian woman.” Salma (Sana Jammalieh) is an aspiring DJ from a small Galilee village who works at bars and restaurants to earn her keep. Fearful of her parents’ reprobation, she hides her gay identity from them and tolerates their incessant attempts to match her up with a traditional groom, providing for some of the film’s best comic moments.
Nour (Shaden Kanboura), is a conservative computer science student from the predominantly Islamist city of Umm al-Fahem in the north of Israel. The head-scarfed new roommate struggles to adjust to the (relatively) promiscuous lifestyle of her roommates and hides all traces of debauchery in the apartment (alcohol bottles, ashtrays, pipes) in a panic when visited by her ultra-conservative fiancé Wissam.
The tribulations of the three roommates are exacerbated when Laila, who allows herself to fall for a slick and mysterious former New-Yorker (Ziad), is disillusioned and heart-broken when his traditional true self is revealed (“Do you think you’re living in Europe?” he chastises her after demanding that she quits smoking and carousing). Salma faces the wrath of her parents after getting caught with her new girlfriend Dunia, whom she dares to bring home. Nour, in a moving performance by Kanboura, finally musters the courage to fight back against her abusive fiancé with the help of her roommates. This particularly difficult storyline caused a backlash against the film from Arab conservatives in the city Umm al-Fahem, where the fiancé character hails from. Local zealots were quick to ban the film and issue a fatwa against the filmmaker, accusing her of violating the values of Islam and wishing violence and failure upon her. Hamoud predicted those hostile responses but nevertheless walked bravely into the fire and produced a candid and sincere film that draws from hers and her friends’ personal experiences.
Hamoud’s belongs to a fledgling wave of Palestinian women directors, whose films have been reaping successes in festivals around the world in the past few years. Her film checks off many “firsts” in Palestinian cinema — this is the first time Palestinian women are seen pot-smoking, coke-snorting, and girl-kissing on screen. A shaky hand-held camera follows the action in Tel-Aviv’s trendiest bars and clubs, as well as the girls’ rented apartment at the center of the city, adequality conveying the precariousness of a life lived secretly. The scenes that follow the characters’ visits to their families’ homes in the periphery are delivered in tight and suffocating fixed frames. Yet with all the anxiety that emanates from theses transitions, the film alternates between the contrasting environments in an upbeat flow, infused with humor and irony, while accurately depicting the crises of a generation torn schizophrenically between two unfavorable worlds.
Bar Bahar (In Between, 2016) by Maysaloun Hamoud was shown as part of the “The Future of Film is Female” series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on August 1 and will be shown at The Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival, UK on October 7.
Artist Minouk Lim wants to offer a very different perspective on how one might deal with a grim history whose effects continue to be felt in the present.
This week: Should Washington have a national memorial for gun violence? Have cats used us to take over the world? What is Cluttercore? And more.
Organizers, artists, and land practitioners are holding public events at Iglesias Garden in a hub space supported by the Climate Justice Initiative, a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
The artist’s style blends aesthetic and cultural elements from Ghana, London, and New York’s graffiti scenes.
Workers told Hyperallergic that they were tired of meager pay and a lack of job security.
Jo Sandman / TRACES opens with a reception for the artist on June 3 at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
Authorities say Jean-Luc Martinez helped facilitate the Louvre’s purchase of objects illegally pillaged during the Arab Spring.
The suspects attempted to take a Basquiat artwork valued at $45,000 from Taglialatella Galleries but instead made off with a half-empty bottle of whiskey.
Funding MFAs and all full-time graduate degrees, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans supports immigrants and the children of immigrants in the US.
From music and architecture to comedy and horror, these films showcase Ukrainian culture and its long-held ethos of resistance.
The artists showcased in Archival Intimacies examine the colonial trauma’s impact on Asian Americans and search for ways to overcome it.
Eiffel inadvertently paints its protagonist not as a great man worthy of scrutiny or praise, but as the Elon Musk of his day.