If I were to tell you that this film is about three Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv, facing the pressures of a society, I doubt you would be expecting chain-smoking, foul-mouthed party-girls, as well as a brilliant house and techno soundtrack. This, in a way, is fitting as Mayasaloun Hamoud’s (a Palestinian-Israeli female director) film is about women defying both the constraints and expectations that society puts on them.
Most films centered around Palestinians tend to focus more on the politics and the impact of the Israeli state on the people there, particularly the West Bank. Instead, Hamoud focuses on the day-to-day lives of three women sharing a flat in Israel’s capital, but doesn’t shy away from the discrimination that they face; from being treated with contempt at a vintage shop, to one of the girls being fired for speaking Arabic at her job.
However, the main conflict of the film arises from the patriarchal oppression of women, which this film shows transcends religion. The film begins with aspiring Christian DJ, Salma, and Layla, a hard-partying Muslim, welcoming their new flat-mate Nour. Depicted wearing a Hijab, Nour probably fits a more traditional picture of a Muslim woman. The girls gradually bond, and we find that their struggles are not so different. Studying in her final year of college, Nour is under pressure from her fiancé to move to Jaffa, who wants her to stay at home and look after their future children; Salma must please her family by meeting with potential husbands at awkward dinners; and Layla’s boyfriend pressures her to stop smoking and act “respectable” in front of his more conservative family, even though he’s arguably as bad as her when it comes to smoking and drinking. It’s here Layla points out the double standard the women face, “what will you give up?”
The film’s charm comes from its focus on the friendship that grows between the three women. While this might sound a tad sappy to the cynics out there, the film is far from a saccharine affair. The plot deals with issues such as rape head-on, even brutally, but never exploitatively. The film ends not with the three girls dancing together, but sitting out on their balcony watching others dance, unsure of what the future holds for them.
Director: Mayasaloun Hamoud.
Starring: Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammelieh and Shaden Kanboura.