Pickles — not your kosher Lower East Side Jewish staple but the pickled eggplant, cauliflower florets, and peppers of Middle East Arabs and Jews.
Director Dalit Kimor’s short, bittersweet documentary intimately chronicles two years of eight Arab Israeli widows’ attempts to succeed with their pickle company in an Arab town in northern Israel’s Galilee. The women met at an entrepreneur course and, with some ongoing mentoring, are trying to bring their mothers’ pickling recipes into the marketplace.
The all-woman Jewish crew videotaped these women’s dreams of wealth, the power plays, their fear of control by a possible Jewish Israeli investor, conflicts with the Arab woman distributor who’s trying to expand into the kosher market, and, above all, the daily reality of Arab women’s lives. As one of the women says: “When someone is widowed, people watch her––where she goes, what she does. They follow her. They want to control her. In this environment it’s really difficult.” They don’t consider marrying again, since any new husband would expect a woman to leave her children behind for the sake of the new union. Above all, the pickle-making business is not only a brave experiment for women who never finished grade school or worked outside their homes, but it’s also a chance to get out of the house and enjoy the friendship of the women they work with.
“Pickles” is a triumph of the non-intrusive camera. The women laugh, joke as they sit around a table preparing the vegetables, their heads covered by traditional scarves, their hands in surgical gloves. Speaking mostly in Arabic — the film provides English subtitles— the widowed workers allow the women who are recording their lives to enter not just into their workspace but also into their homes.
Shown on the PBS series “Wide Angle,” at the 22nd Israel Film Festival, and the Other Israel Film Festival in New York, you can view a video clip at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/about/film_s4_f5.html. Producer Nitza Gonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.