This French-Canadian production is one of the first fiction films I’ve seen to report on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Written and directed by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, it follows the toils of Chloe (Evelyne Brochu), a foreign doctor working in a Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank. Specialising in childbirth, she makes the trip from her comfortable flat in the Israeli territory to the battle scarred Palestinian area each day. One of her closest friends is Ava (Sivan Levy), who does her involuntary military duty checking papers at the border. Meanwhile on the Palestinian side she strikes up a friendship with the pregnant Rand (Sabrina Ouazani) and her brother Faysal (Yousef Sweid).
Barbeau-Lavalette has immediately set up a meaty conflict here; Chloe’s limbo between Ava, apathetic to the suffering across the border, and Rand and Faysal’s burgeoning militancy. A young Palestinian boy is struck down by a callous Israeli military driver, and tensions begin to rise. Chloe offers to hand out the flyers that Faysal has printed in the boys memory, but her medical superiors order her not to get involved. She is, as the post-punk band Magazine once sang, Shot by both sides. As Rand’s due date looms and Faysal begins to indoctrinate her into their way of thinking, Chloe’s thoughts and motivations begin to change.
There is a lot to admire in Inch’Allah. The script is engaging and enjoyably murky to begin with, with Barbeau-Lavalette keen not to take any sides. It is competently directed and you get a real sense of the hostility of the environment. The performances are routinely strong, Brochu conveying the sense of confusion and futility of her existence, while Ouazani provides much needed humour as the feisty Rand. It would be quite easy to see Inch’Allah being nominated for a foreign Oscar.
Therein lies the problem; there is something rather Oscar worthy about the film that leaves a bitter after taste. In attempting to sum up a deeply complex conflict into a neat 2 hour feature the film comes across as a little preachy and safe. The initial conflict is interesting but the script veers towards contrivances at the end in order to make its point. It’s not quite the sugar coated fluff that props up every Best Picture competition, but it doesn’t feel entirely authentic and nuanced either.