Wednesday, July 20, 2011

#161: Arranged

Indie- the word in filmdom that sounds so cool and yet is such an arduous journey for any filmmaker. It simply means the making of movies without any major studio backing the production of the movie. So the filmmakers,(the writer-director team primarily) get together like a group of friends and more often than not struggle to rustle up the funds and the technical support required to complete a movie. If they're lucky and their movie hits gold at film festivals, the distributors automatically chip in to market the movie and the movie gets a mainstream release. If not, we never hear of them.

Arranged, a movie made in 2007 is an example, as to why the indie movement needs to grow. For if it doesn't and the studios continue to have their way around, as an audience we will be bereft of many such gems that will get buried in some remote corner of a studio. Made under their own banner of Cicala Filmworks, Diane Cresper and Stephen Schaeffer tell us the story of a friendship between two teachers at a school in New York city. The protagonists are Nasira (Francis Benhamou), an Orthodox single Muslim lady and a simliar Jew spinster Rakhoul (Zoe Lister Jones, also seen in State of Play, Salt) who bond over their pending marriages and their controversial friendship of sorts in the school. The students, for instance ask them openly how could a Muslim and a Jew be friends and the school Principal thinks they dress up too tightly for a populist liking.

Without any major inflection point, the movie plays at a leisurely pace and of all things, the impending marriage of the two eligible single women, become the focal point of interest. Instead of taking a preachy route towards their friendship, Arranged takes a light-hearted and an extremely sensible approach with a message for the viewers that in the end, all human race is one. Francis Benhamou is a spark of joy in the movie with her charismatic on-screen presence. The contrast in Lister Jones' more inward-looking and shy Rakhoul works as a smart tool that enhances the mirth in the conversations between the two friends.

The playful approach adopted in veering around deep seated religious beliefs gives the storytelling a wonderful dimension and brings a smile even in the simplest of scenes. Arranged is a pleasing work of cinema that will have you absorbed throughout it's duration. At one level, Arranged is a simple story from the pluralistic multi-cultural playground of the city of New York. At another, it is a reminder that all that we need for world peace is for some of us to live with a modicum of tolerance in our society. In the world that we live, increasingly such reminders are becoming not just apt but essential.

Rating: 7.2/10

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