Friday, May 9, 2014

My Summer of Foreign Film: Inch'Allah

I like watching movies. A lot. But to make myself feel less like a couch potato, I try to do something productive while watching them—knitting, exercising, writing letters. Because my attention isn’t always on the screen, I don’t watch foreign films as often as I’d like. However, I’m falling into a new habit. Half an hour before I want to go to sleep, I’ll climb into bed and watch part of a movie on my iPad. Maybe it’s because of this—watching with all the lights out, earbuds in, and just the glow of the small screen—that I enjoy foreign films as much as I do.

A few nights ago, I watched Inch’Allah from writer/director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette. It centers on Chloé, a Canadian doctor working in a clinic in Ramallah but living in Jerusalem. To get to work and back, she must pass a checkpoint, usually manned by her neighbor, Ava. And then there’s Rand, one of Chloé’s patients who is expecting a child while her husband sits in prison. The story is about these woman—one within the walls, one without, one who can go between—and the friendships they form in the midst of struggle.

It reminded me a bit of my time in the Peace Corps—preteen boys yelling at you while you walk down the street, hospitality that is simultaneously gracious and strained, the spark to act without anyone to tell you how. I say ‘a bit’ because hey, my situation wasn’t as volatile and medicine is considerably more important than TEFL teaching.

As we watch events unfold through Chloé’s eyes, her increasing sense of futility is evident and quite sad. She can do all she can to help—help Rand deliver a healthy baby, help Ava feel like a normal girl instead of a soldier* by going out to a dance club, help Rand’s family by taking them to their old home–but will it even make a dent? There are a lot of close-up shots that show the full brunt of Chloé’s reactions and emotions. But it’s not her story, exactly. It’s everyone’s, and I think that’s what makes it such a poignant film.

Watching Inch’Allah made me realize how much I miss conversing in other languages. My area offers little opportunity to use the Russian I learned in Kazakhstan, which means I’ve lost a lot of it (although a friend of a friend might be available to tutor me soon!). So, I’ve decided to broaden my horizons by making this My Summer of Foreign Film. I’m shooting for fifteen films over the course of the summer. Next up is Romantics Anonymous.

*Ava might not actually be a soldier. I’m a little fuzzy on that. I should reread my history textbooks from college!

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