Two women whose peoples are often at odds find they're more alike than anyone expects in this drama from directors Stefan C. Schaefer and Diane Crespo. Rochel (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Nasira (Francis Benhamou) are two young women who have begun teaching at a public grade school in Brooklyn, NY. Rochel is an Orthodox Jew and Nasira is a Muslim of Pakistani descent, and the students and the administrators at the school are concerned there might be friction between the two teachers. However, over the course of their first year of teaching, Rochel and Nasira discover they have far more in common than they imagined -- both sometimes find themselves culturally out of place in 21st century New York, and both are trying to live within the traditions of their faith while struggling with their own feelings. In particular, Rochel and Nasira bond over the fact both are expected to enter into arranged marriages, Nasira with a wary optimism and Rochel with a great deal of trepidation. Arranged was screened in competition at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
So, two girls from traditional families, one Jewish one Muslim, discover they have much more in common than anyone imagined. Sadly, this movie is nothing more than the heartfelt wish, of the writers and director, for how the world ought to be, not how it really is. Do not confuse this movie for reality.
The girls are attractive, the acting is good, the sentiment is sweet, and I enjoyed the scenes of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, a place I know fairly well. But to call the movie sophomoric is to give sophomores a bad name.
Yes, of course, individuals are the same everywhere, but this explains almost nothing about the world we live in. If everybody wants to be left in peace and to mind his own business, why are there wars? Why do husbands beat wives? Why do mothers abandon children? Ethnic cleansing? Jihad? Crusades? Etc., etc., etc. The world is more complicated than two young women who want to marry for love. Considerably more complicated, and a lot nastier.
Rachel and Nasira teach 4th grade at an elementary school in Brooklyn. Early in the movie, the children wonder about the teachers working together, and one students asks, "Don't the Muslims want to kill the Jews?" and the movie is off and running with its basic message that people everywhere are the same and all the unpleasantness is just a terrible misunderstanding.
There is no misunderstanding. Lots of people have lots of ideas, and not all these ideas are sweet and generous.
One poignant moment came when Nasira rejected the first suitor her father chose for her. Her father understood (so arranged marriages are alright). Well, fathers sometimes do understand. But twelve year old Afghan and Yemeni girls marrying 40 and 50 year old men is proof that fathers sometimes do not understand.
If Stefan Schaefer and Yuta Silverman (the writers), and Diane Crespo (the director), want to do more than "imagine world peace," if they want to strike a blow for world peace, they would do us all a favor by telling how it really is, rather than concocting a fable of arranged marriages.
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