A sober, intelligently made drama, “Inch’Allah” offers a strong albeit deeply depressing look at the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians chafing under occupation. Tackling incendiary subject matter in a realist style, Quebecois writer-helmer Anais Barbeau-Lavalette tells an occasionally too-neat story from the perspective of a young obstetrician who is working at a United Nations clinic in the Ramallah refugee camp, but living in Jerusalem. Sure to be controversial for putting a human face on an inhumane act, the pic reps niche arthouse material for brave distribs, and should enjoy steady fest play. Quebec rollout begins Sept. 28.
Quebecois physician Chloe (Evelyne Brochu, attractive but too blank a slate) commutes twice daily between home and work, waiting in long lines to pass through crowded checkpoints, and observing the oppressive way soldiers treat the frustrated, restive crowds. In Israel, however, her life is easy. At night, she frequently goes drinking and dancing with her French-speaking neighbor, Ava (Sivan Levy).
At the clinic, Chloe befriends pregnant patient Rand (Sabrina Ouazani, impressive), an impetuous, energetic woman whose husband is awaiting sentencing in an Israeli jail. Rand and her activist brother, Faysal (Yousef Sweid), introduce Chloe to life on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier.
When Rand loses her baby because she isn’t allowed through a checkpoint to go to the hospital for care, despite Chloe’s intervention, she (rather unreasonably) blames Chloe. Shocked and saddened, the doctor falls prey to a different sort of Jerusalem syndrome, one that results in her violating her Hippocratic oath in extremely disturbing fashion.
Cipher-like Chloe is meant to provide an outsider’s outlook, but her lack of personality makes her the pic’s least credible character. Beauty that she is, it seems odd that she has no love interest, and prefers to spend her off hours socializing with much younger women. And busy as she is, it’s strange that she has time to hang out at the dump, watching Rand and feral Palestinian boys sort through the trash to find items that they can use or sell. Yet she must, in order to fulfill the contrivances of the plot.
Despite these missteps, Barbeau-Lavalette’s script strongly conveys the intractable nature of the conflict and, as such, should be required viewing for foreign diplomats daring to weigh in on the Middle East peace process. “It’s not your war,” Ava reminds Chloe, even as Faysal tells her, “All sides is no side.” Yet Israelis and Palestinians alike seem unwilling to allow someone to cut in on their never-ending dance of death.
The intimate lensing by the helmer’s father, Philippe, furthers the feeling of observing the situation through Chloe’s eyes, yet too often we see her eyes and agonized face rather than the events she is watching.