Opening 7 Jul 2016
The film Liebe Halal deals with three Muslim couples in Lebanon and their attempts to solve their partner problems within the framework of Islamic law. The contortions that result are both funny and thought-provoking.
Awatef (Mirna Moukarzel) is tired of having to satisfy her husband’s sex drive every night and arranges for a second wife on a trial basis to share the burden, even though her husband is really not interested in a second wife. All goes well until the second wife becomes a little too popular in her new role and is subsequently dismissed. A great belly dance performance by Awatef and her little girls serves to reignite the relationship.
The second case is that of a beautiful divorcee, Loubna (Darine Hamze), who wants to live a liberated life with a partner of her choice rather than return to her mother’s home and supervision. However, although her lover constantly talks about his dull marriage, he is lax to commit. When he starts criticizing Loubna’s cooking like a typical husband, she decides to ditch him. She’d like to escape to Australia like her gay brother but can’t get a visa. So she proactively opens up her own dress shop in Beirut.
Finally there’s the lovely Batoul (Zeinab Khadra) and her cute little husband Mokhtar (Hussein Mokkadem). The two have a great sex life, but Mokhtar is extremely jealous and has a tendency towards violence. He manages to divorce Batoul in a fit of uncontrolled anger by simply proclaiming divorce three times. This takes place in the hallway of the apartment building where they live, and all the neighbors in the complex witness the act, sitting around as if they were on a public square. After the divorce the two would like to get together again, but this requires that Batoul marry a different man, consummate the marriage and divorce him. Mokhtar arranges a patsy for the job, but Batoul will have nothing to do with him and leaves both men.
The problems the couples have are pretty universal, but the solutions are unique, involving some unusual intricacies of Islamic law. The three main female characters are strong-willed and independent women, and the actresses portraying them are wonderful. Their male partners, on the other hand, appear pampered, slightly obtuse, and controlled in one way or the other either by their mothers, their wives, or their mothers-in-law. The women all manage to take charge of their lives, suggesting that the prospects of women in a modern Islamic society are not all that dismal. Thus the movie is probably encouraging for liberated Muslim women. For those who live in a society in which religious and civil law are separate and like it that way, the message is a little less uplifting. The movie is entertaining and worth seeing because of these insights, but not a must. (Pat Nevers)