Sunday, January 31, 2010

Two Movies You May Not Have Heard Of

Ushpizin, available from Netflix for either DVD rental or instant viewing, is an interesting movie about a married couple trying to be religious and not always succeeding. It is the festival of Sukkot, and Moshe and his wife are so broke they barely have any food in the house, let alone supplies for celebrating the holiday. They begin to pray very hard and two things happen, they receive an unexpected sum of money and two guests from Moshe's not-so-religious past show up. They attempt to provide hospitality to the men, but things do not go smoothly.

I saw this small independent movie back in November, but I still remember it and would like to see it again; that's better than some big budget movies I've seen. I liked it not only because it gives a glimpse inside a world I will never be a part of, but because it shows religious people sincerely trying to follow God, failing to live up to their ideals, yet continuing to try. Religion is not shown as a contemptible thing, fit only for mockery. This makes Ushpizin an unusual movie by contemporary standards. It's also a good story.

Arranged (also available from Netflix) is another low-budget, seemingly small movie. It concerns Rochel and Nasira, two young schoolteachers in a NYC elementary school, who do not fit in with the other teachers. Both dress modestly and have expectations of an arranged marriage. Did I mention they don't fit in? They become friends through the shared bonds of looking for love in a now non-standard way and of enduring their principal's attempts to save them from oppression.

Ushpizin is the better film, but I like this movie too. How often do we get to see a young woman stand up in a movie and say that "traditional" isn't necessarily bad? Aren't all modern films supposed to be about young women defying authority and tradition? This is a different movie--refreshingly so.

As to family viewing, I don't think little kids would like these movies, but older girls might like Arranged and there's no acres of naked flesh, sex scenes, violence, or noticeable swearing in either movie. There's also no car chases and special effects, for family members who require them, and Ushpizin has subtitles, which I've learned is an issue for some people. (I'm sympathetic to illiteracy; I'm not sympathetic to whines of "I don't want to read" coming from literate people.)

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