Sitting in a nondescript hotel conference room, Abu Siam and five others described challenges faced as Israeli women. Among them, no one seemed both more foreign and yet more immediate than Abu Siam, who appeared dressed in colorful Muslim garb sparkling with jewelry, covered from head to toe so that only her beautiful and expressive face was visible. She appeared alternately angry and sad, fierce and broken, and as we heard her story -- translated from Hebrew by our group leader -- the reasons for her emotions became both understandable and unfathomable.
"Pickles, Inc." is an unpretentious PBS documentary about eight Arab widows from a village in northern Israel, who break all kinds of traditions by starting a tiny factory producing homemade pickles.
As modest as it seems, "Pickles," which airs Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 9 p.m. on KCET, can be viewed on surprisingly varied levels: as part of the recent trend by Israeli filmmakers to explore sympathetically the daily lives of their Arab countrymen; as the struggle of Arab women to stir against generations of submission by testing the boundaries of their independence; as a portrayal of the joys and pitfalls facing novices trying to start their own small business.
Finally -- and this matters, too -- the film provides a bit of lighthearted news from a land of generally shrieking and frequently depressing, doom-saying headlines.