Palestinian writer-director Maysaloun Hamoud’s extremely delightful debut movie about three Arab-Israeli single women living together in Tel Aviv has deservedly won her copious awards around the world. The story about a conservative Muslim woman who moves in with a couple of partying flatmates features drugs, alcohol and homosexuality all of which are taboo in that culture as Hamoud said she just wanted to shake it all up a little. She certainly succeed in that in a big way as back home an outraged section of the community have actually issued a Fatwa on her : the first Palestinian one in 70 years.
Leila (Mouna Hawa) is a strikingly beautiful successful lawyer who is not adverse to power-dressing and flirting with the Jewish Prosecutor to cut a good deal for her Client. She’s been looking for Mr Right for some time, and has been having fun trying out potential candidates meanwhile. Her room-mate is lesbian disc-jockey/barkeeper Salma (Sana Jammelieh) who loves her music loud, and her women a tad bohemian. Every so often she catches the bus to the village where her wealthy parents live and sits through another dinner with a potential suitor they chosen for her to have an arranged marriage. They thinking that not only is she straight, but that she leads a respectable life as school music teacher too.
Then after the girl in the third bedroom in the apartment leaves to get married, her conservative cousin Nour (Shaden Kanboura) a hijabi graduate student from the country takes her place. Nour strictly adheres to a a traditional way of life, so much so that it is somewhat surprising that she is even studying at the University in the first place. When Wissam (Henry Andrawes) her fiance comes to visit and puts pressure on her to give up her degree course, she reminds him that they will need her income to survive. A fact that goes down like a lead balloon with this indignant rather brutish man.
Although the three women are so different on many levels they quickly form a tight bond with each other, and as the story unfolds and each of them has to deal with their own particular crisis, then the others are quick to help. Hamoud’s engrossing tale sets each of them up with a different conflict, all of which are created by different aspects of traditional Palestinian patriarchal culture that so desperately shuns any attempt to make it conform to society today where women demand and expect both equality and freedom. The movie also reminds us of the continuing presence of Israeli racism where the Arab population are still abused in public.
If it wasn’t for the serious nature of the problems, the movie could be dubbed Palestinian Men Behaving Badly, but having said that, the real joy is the fact that Hamoud imbues her compelling movie with so much joy and hope. That is probably the real reason that men back home hate it, and not just the simple fact that they are for once the losers.
Brilliant cast : all three of the lead actresses give convincing and compelling performances, which adds so much enjoyment, and will be the reason that this truly delightful movie will continue to keep collecting awards.