By Don Simpson | August 16, 2013
Director: Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
Writer: Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
Starring: Evelyne Brochu, Sabrina Ouazani, Sivan Levy, Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid, Hammoudeh Alkarmi, Zorah Benali, Carlo Brandt, Marie-Therese Fortin, Ahmad Massad
Chloe (Evelyne Brochu) is a Canadian doctor who commutes from Jerusalem to work in a pregnancy clinic in Ramallah, a impoverished West Bank settlement. She approaches this complex and dangerous part of the world with alarming naïveté, often walking the chaotic streets alone, with no worries at all. Her nonchalance is intended to illustrate that Chloe views everyone as equals, making no judgments according to ethnicity or religion. Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to not develop an allegiance here; those who do not, seem to be weak and/or uninformed.
Chloe often travels to and from the border checkpoint with her upstairs neighbor and friend, Ava (Sivan Levy). Ava works as an armed guard at the checkpoint, so she has obviously formed a very biased opinion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from her firsthand experiences. Though she seems to respect Chloe’s opinions, Ava refuses to trust — let alone, like — the Palestinians; it is her duty to live in constant fear of them.
While working at the clinic, Chloe has developed a close friendship with a pregnant Palestinian woman, Rand (Sabrina Ouazani), and her family. Rand lives in dire poverty with her mother and two brothers, Faysal (Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid) and Safi (Hammoudeh Alkarmi). It is no surprise that Rand’s family detests the Israelis for forcing them to leave their home and relocate to this hellish settlement. Their hatred is fueled by an endless array of horrible atrocities committed by the Israelis: the father of Rand’s unborn child is sentenced to 25 years in prison, for seemingly inexplicable reasons; while in labor, Rand is not permitted to pass through a blockade of Israeli soldiers to access the hospital; a young Palestinian boy is purposefully mauled by a military jeep. As Chloe witnesses these events firsthand, her opinions on the situation begin to form. This may not be her war to participate in, but this is a world in which everyone must take a side and form a delineation between who is good and who is bad.
Quebecois writer-director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Inch’Allah effectively illustrates how no one can truly understand both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no matter how immersed they are. If anything, the immersion blinds them. Opinions are formed by prejudice; there is no way to experience and learn about this world without establishing some sort of bias. For example, Ava and Rand have drastically different vantage points of this world and their understanding of what is going on is equally polarized. Chloe, too, can only form her own opinions by what she experiences firsthand. Her perspective is unique in that no one else sees the world through her eyes; Chloe’s personal history is also much different than Ava or Rand’s. In that way, Inch’Allah focuses on a Western white woman’s reaction to and relation with the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. Because of her skin color and background, Chloe is able to cross the border with little-to-no difficulty. She can leave Ramallah for the safety and security of Jerusalem whenever she pleases; and by this constant crossing of the border, Barbeau-Lavalette’s film also observes the differing roles of women among Israelis versus Palestinians.
An impressively astute yet understated narrative, Inch’Allah refrains from taking too pronounced of a side, as Barbeau-Lavalette attempts to maintain the same level of impartiality with which Chloe begins the film. It is difficult to deny that the Israelis are the more overt bad guys in this scenario, but the Palestinians seem to make just as violently irrational of decisions on their own.