Arranged (2007, USA)

I like movies where ordinary people from different background find the common ground. I particularly enjoy if seeing Jewish-Muslim friendships, because every such relationship shown strengthens the idea that is possible to live together just fine, and even become friends. In Arranged we have two young women teaching at a grade school in Brooklyn New York, who both are going through the process of getting wed through the traditional process of arrange marriage. This is the common ground they find, despite that their prospects, approach to the issue (of how arranged marriages work in a society where it is no longer the norm), the details of their stories and their religion is different.

Rochel, played by Zoe Lister Jones, who is from Brooklyn, plays the orthodox, intelligent, is the shy Jewish girl, whose mother and shadchen arranges dates with clearly unacceptable, but available Jewish men. Nasira, played Francis Benhamou, whose father is Moroccan, is the daughter of a Moroccan man, who wants her to marry an old family friend from the old country. As the two women struggle with and against their ready-made choices and what it might mean to refuse they grew closer together. Rochel attempts to get out of the orthodox Jewish world, but the first secular party she ever attends in her life turns her off from that path as well. Meanwhile Rochel’s father is more understanding and loving than we would expect.

I am not revealing the details of the happy ending, but I tell you that much, that it is a somewhat conservative take. I have no problem with that, because it worked fine for this film, but I was a bit disappointed that the non-religious life was depicted as all bad. Surely it has good aspects as well, yet they were not included in this film much. I understand though that most Hollywood film focus on that anyway, so why not counterbalance that with a decidedly religious tome.

I think this movie is worth showing to Muslim, Jewish and any kind of audience. Nice story that goes beyond tolerance. Teaching tolerance is just the first step in understanding. The next is shown here: creating meaningful friendships, by focusing on the similarities and not on the differences of our culture. The movie is solidly and touchingly written, directed, and played. (Check out its own website too.)