While I was sick this past week, I watched all 22 episodes of season one of the TV show "Friday Night Lights."
I loved it.
I also enjoyed the movie "Arranged." It’s about a budding friendship between two teachers — one an Orthodox Jew and the other a Muslim. Both are seeking arranged marriages.
This film screened at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. This is a warm feel good film with a positive message that would be particularly good for teaching teens about overcoming prejudice and understanding different cultures. The film focuses on two young female teachers – one an Orthodox Jew and the other an observant Muslim – who are assigned to work together in a multi-ethnic school in Brooklyn.
The film is charming and uplifting as the two women learn that they have more in common with each other than either would have expected. They find friendship with each other, because they are both confronting similar issues with their parents and the secular world. They are also both undergoing the difficulty of trying to find a mate through their community’s traditional systems of arranged marriage. While some of the characters come off as walking stereotypes (the Jewish matchmaker appears to be straight out of Fiddler on the Roof), the film for the most part does a sensitive job of portraying both Islam and Judaism in a very positive light. The film respects the women’s genuine commitment to their faiths even as they struggle with difficult aspects of their faiths.
Arranged also shows the difficulties and prejudices that both women experience for being religiously observant from secular people (particularly the school’s idiot principal). This latter subject is an important one that is rarely addressed in the secular film world where religion is too often mocked as irrational and oppressive – particular towards women – rather than understood on its own terms.
The acting and the script are sometimes uneven and there are moments that feel like an after school special. The conclusion is a bit too simplistic. But the message about both necessity and possibility of multi-religious co-existence is a good one presented with humor, warmth, and intelligence. In a world, where religion is often the basis of division and hatred, it is good to see a film that attempts to show that Jewish-Muslim co-existence is possible.