Rochel Meshenberg (played by Zoe Lister Jones) is a born teacher – she loves it. She works as an aid for children with special needs in a Brooklyn Public School. She interacts with the children very well and can comfortably find common ground with them to ease communication. Nasira Khaldi (by Francis Benhamou) loves being a teacher too. She works at the same school, but with a regular class of children. In her classroom she encourages open discussion, particularly about issues that arise day to day in the community. Both Rochel and Nasira have a very strong religious faith – one in Orthodox Judaism and the other Islam. Although their roles at the school are non-secular, their lives are deeply entrenched in their respective cultures. They have challenging key principles to deal with in their faith and find common ground at their workplace through the ignorance of colleagues. Although their families strongly resist their interaction, Rochel and Nasira build a trust that develops into a strong friendship. Each now faces the prospect of finding a husband … because their families say “it’s time”. The selection process is both harrowing and liberating for them.
Anyone who is not familiar with either of these faiths will probably learn much from this movie. As a drama it’s a little pedestrian, but it is courageous in the topic it has chosen to address. The stories play out very well and the key issues involved in each family of the roles, duty, processes, beliefs and general conduct of the participants are jaw-dropping, but told in a beautifully gentle and entertaining way. It’s a great avenue to explore these ideas and issues, particularly for the first time. Both lead women are marvellous – they are totally beautiful and magnificent role models for their faiths and the stories they portray. Most key support roles are by women also – and these are strong performances, particularly Rochel’s mother, Sheli (by Mimi Leiber) and the Orthodox “community arranger” Miriam (by Peggy Gormley). Marcia Jean Kurtz is also cringingly good as the well-intentioned Principal Jacoby. In 2007 and 2008 the movie won several awards .. the Brooklyn International Film Festival awarded it a Chameleon for Best Feature Film and a Grand Chameleon for Best Film. At the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival it won the Grand Prize for a Feature Film and the Washington Jewish Film Festival gave it the Audience Award. Well done.
Made in 2007. Directed by Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer