Thursday, 16 May 2013


Inch'Allah follows Chloé (Evelyne Brochu), a Franco-Canadian doctor working in a women's health clinic in Ramallah, who crosses the West Bank Barrier back into Jerusalem, where she lives, every day. The wall between Israel and the West Bank is more than a physical obstacle, the daily nuisance of waiting in line and having your property checked by soldiers, in the film it serves as a dividing line between two worlds that can be crossed, but makes it impossible for the inhabitants of either side to understand or really connect with the other. Chloé, as the foreigner and stranger to the conflict, traverses the border but doesn't really fit in on any side, not with her friend and downstairs neighbour Ava (Sivan Levy), a border guard with the Israeli army (not by choice), or with the family of Rand (Sabrina Ouazani), one of the pregnant women she treats in the clinic. In the beginning of the film, Chloé attempts to forge a connection between the two worlds, delivering lipstick from Ava to Rand (so that in a poignant scene when the two women meet for the first and only time, Rand recognizes Chloé's other friend by the colour of her lips, the same lipstick that she gave to her), but the situation starts to deteriorate when the Israeli settlement is attacked. It sets off a series of violent acts, and creates a situation in which Chloé is increasingly drawn into Rand's family - she starts to feel attracted to her brother (played by Yousef Sweid), who runs a copy shop that also publishes anti-Israeli propaganda and posters of glorified suicide attackers. 
The film seems less interested in tracing the root of the violence between Israelis and Palestinians - if anything, the circle of it seems inescapable, from the frustration over the constant patrols and controls to the occasional outbreak of violence and attacks on Israeli homes, to the unnecessary and terrifying loss of a child's life (killed by a patrolling car that doesn't stop) that triggers the escalation. The film portrays both sides as resigned to the inevitability of it, and trapped in constant suspicion, so that the genuine connection that Chloé tries to create between the two women she cares about is doomed to fail. She uses her friendship with Ava to take Rand's family to their old village on the Israeli side of the wall, but the grandmother's exuberance to return to her home turns bitter when Faysal blames Chloé for opening up old wounds. 
Inch'Allah follows an outsider - Ava tells Chloé that this is not her conflict, Rand's brother points out to her that life on the other side of the wall must be comfortable and safe (that she is nothing but a tourist), and yet, as people she knows and cares about become victims, Chloé finds it impossible to remain impartial. The more time she spends with Rand and Faysal, the less she comprehends Ava's attempts to explain her side, the constant fear of attacks, the frustration of having to participate in something she does not fully support. Inch'Allah isn't really a film about the conflict itself, but a story about someone not born into it inevitably becoming so involved, in spite of never really understanding, that she ends up actively engaging in it and becoming a guilty party. Rand's baby dies after she gives birth in a traffic jam - the Israeli soldiers won't let her pass, Faysal's attempt to connect with one of them on a human level (football) almost succeeds, but then Chloé, with her moral arguments and her outrage, antagonizes him and he stops them. As a doctor and as Rand's friend, it's an incomprehensible loss that could have been avoided, and somehow (she never puts it into words, her mother on the other side of the computer screen wouldn't understand), the grief and the helplessness turn her into an active actor in the self-replicating circle of violence. She delivers the explosives that Rand will carry into the very café that Chloé and Ava used to frequent, on the other side in Jerusalem.  Chloé takes them right across the border under Ava's eyes, and more people die, senselessly. Like the boy at the end of the film, gaping through a small hole in the wall, neither Chloé nor we the viewers were ever able to see more than just a small fragment of the whole picture. 

2012, directed by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, starring Evelyne Brochu, Sabrina Ouazani, Sivan Levy, Yousef Sweid, Hammoudeh Alkarmi, Zorah Benali, Carlo Brandt.

(I would very much recommend watching this film alongside Bruno Dumont's Hadewijch). 

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