While the Oscars drew much attention last week, Maysaloun Hamoud, the Arab director and writer of the film In Between (Bar Bahr), recently received a different type of recognition, of the negative sort, for her film work. The 35-year old film director had a fatwa issued against her debut film, In Between, released in Israeli theaters back in January.
The film tells the story of Nur, a conservative Muslim woman from Umm al-Fahm who moves in with two secular, partying Arab flat mates in hipster Tel Aviv and rebels against her traditions. Upon its release, it was heavily criticized in Umm al-Fahm, including by the city’s mayor.
Located in northern Israel, Umm al-Fahm is one of the country’s largest Arab cities with around 50,000 residents and serves as a stronghold for the Islamic Movement. The film was banned from screening in the city.
Right after the film was first screened in Israel, the mayor of Umm al-Fahm Sheikh Khaled Hamdan called Hamoud a heretic during a speech delivered in a mosque in January. Soon after, the Higher Islamic Council issued a fatwa, a religious Islamic ruling that determined that Hamoud was harming Islam and that the film was sinful.
“For the first two weeks there was a lot of craziness. I’m not saying that I was scared or frightened, but the violence that was in the air from the fundamentalists was so strong,” Mahmoud told The Hollywood Reporter, which reported that Hamoud and the film’s actresses have been the targets of several death threats.
The Umm al-Fahm city hall also sought a countrywide ban on In Between, and wrote a letter to the Israeli Ministry of Culture demanding that the film be removed from all Israeli theaters, describing it “offensive to the religion of Islam and to the residents of Umm al-Fahm in particular.”
“I didn’t know from the beginning or even during production that it would be like this kind of mess. But of course I knew that we were going to ruffle feathers. I think it was one of the purposes … to shake the system,” Hamoud commented to The Hollywood Reporter.
Hamoud was born in Budapest and returned to her family’s native Galilee village of Deir Hanna when she was two. She studied Film at the Minshar Film School in Tel Aviv University.
In Between, which was produced by actor Shlomi Elkabetz, has already received awards in film festivals around the world.