The Carpet (film #3 in the Rural Settlement and Security section of the State of Israel section of Stephen Spielberg Jewish Film Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This 50s film tells the story of a young Jewish woman from Kurdistan whose family has recently settled in Israel. The Kurdish Jews live a traditional Middle-Eastern lifestyle much different from the European and American Jews living in Israel that are profiled in other Spielberg Archive films. The young woman is eventually placed in an arranged marriage, and we get to see the wedding customs of her people, which are a combination of Jewish and Kurdish. Fortunately, she likes her husband, but unfortunately, he is soon killed in a border dispute. Not only must she face her grief, she loses her role as a married woman in her community, and there is little for her to look forward to as a young widow in her culture. A social worker encourages her to use her traditional needlework skills to create carpets for sale, and this helps to restore self-esteem and a sense of purpose to her. This is a touching film with subtle feminist overtones that are surprising given the time it was made. For instance, during the wedding ceremony, the young woman’s new husband places his foot over hers, which in her culture is a symbol of the husband being in charge in the home; but the woman responds to this by pulling her foot out of her slipper, indicating she does not accept such domination. Also, the intervention of the social worker lets the woman know that she need not accept the depressingly useless role her culture ascribes to her as a widow. This is surprising given that in the early 50s, there wasn’t much feminism going on even in Western culture. Despite this questioning of the patriarchal aspect of Kurdish culture, the film overall is respectful of it. The film also has a lot of historical value in documenting the culture of Kurdish Jews.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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