Cicala Filmworks 2007
“ARRANGED centers on the friendship between an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman who meet as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. Over the course of the year they learn they share much in common—not least of which is that they are both going through the process of arranged marriages.”
I watched this film for the first time about a year ago and liked it so much that I recently watched it again. Because it’s such an unusual, obscure film that helped me envision Zion, I thought I’d comment on it. Nasira and Rochel were more familiar than foreign to me for a couple of reasons. I live in a suburb of Washington, D.C. that is as religiously, philosophically, and ethnically diverse as the area depicted in the film. The friendship between Rochel and Nasira could have taken place in my community. The challenges they faced could have happened here too, and while I can’t imagine a principal at one of my children’s schools challenging devout women in the vigorous way the one in the film did Nasira and Rochel, the principal’s mindset is prevalent in my community and contributes to a culture that can be hostile to religious ideas and practices that aren’t politically correct.
I also felt a connection of faith with both characters. In my own church, marriages aren’t arranged, but I understood the strong desire these women felt to be married to men who shared their religious traditions and faith. I don’t wear a hijab, but I do follow a standard of modesty that is stricter than the American norm and cringed when other characters displayed such misunderstanding about Rochel and Nasira’s clothing choices. In one such scene, Nasira tells the group of teachers she works with a little about her family. The principal asks whether her father makes her wear a hijab, and she responds with this simple and beautiful explanation: “I choose to wear it—it’s my choice—as an expression of my beliefs and my adherence to what’s written in the Quran about feminine modesty—humility.” I wanted to cheer!
I was so impressed that these women were able to find a way to be true to their families and their traditional religious faiths in a modern world where such devotion and standards are so often ridiculed. Below are a few links that describe this movie and give background information. If you don’t want spoilers, don’t look at the third one until after you’ve watched the movie.
This work by Katherine Padilla is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.