Arranged. Cicala Filmworks. 2007. Not rated.
The Plot: Rochel and Nasira are two beginning teachers at a New York City public school. Rochel is an Orthodox Jew; Nasira, a Muslim. Slowly, the realize how much they share: traditional lifestyles, modest dress, close families, and arranged marriages.
The Good: Such a sweet, lovely film! An excellent film for library or class discussions. It’s about concentrating on what people share and have in common rather than focusing only on how people are different or “other.” It also shows how “arranged marriage” has many meanings, the motivation behind it, and what it can mean for two different women. It’s about friendship and family.
Both Nasira and Rochel dress “modestly”, but in different ways. Nasira covers her hair; Rochel wears long skirts. Both live at home with their parents and siblings. Both are from cultures where arranged marriages is the norm, just in different ways. For Nasira, it means her father looking for a husband and the two meeting and getting to know each other under the gaze of their families. For Rochel, it means a local matchmaker has a file of possible men for Rochel and she arranges a sequence of first dates where the young man comes over, the two meet and go on a date hoping for something. It’s funny to see the two women compare how the arranged marriages are put together, the differences and similarities. Both Rochel’s and Nasira’s parents also had arranged marriages, and both marriages are shown as loving and supportive.
Their principal doesn’t understand them, sees only the clothes and assumes neither woman has any choice in how they live their life. Rochel’s choice, that has one, is illustrated when she visits a cousin who has left Orthodox Judaism. At first things seem not to be working out for Rochel, and the resolution is warmly satisfying and respectful to how people choose to live their lives.