just the broadest strokes, the background story to Miral sounds
almost surreal – an acclaimed Jewish-American artist-turned-film-director
hires an Indian actress to play a suspected Arab terrorist in a somewhat
However, when that Jewish director is as fearless and artistic as
Oscar-nominee Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, The Diving Bell and the
Butterfly) and the actress was also a huge part of a recent Oscar
favorite (Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire), you have to assume
that it all is done with artistry and due to a strong belief in the
importance of exploring all sides of the debate.
hate to say it, but even if both had the best of intentions, Miral
does not quite do the job that both seemed to hope for. In fact, both –
particularly Pinto, who feels badly miscast here – seem to have bitten off
more than they can chew.
like an interesting-but-ultimately-flawed
attempt at making a
compelling look at the Israeli-Palestinian
debate. Films from the Middle East (such as Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise
Now or Vidi Bilu & Dalia Hager’s Close to Home) have taken much
more nuanced and intriguing looks at the cultural divide.
over 50 years in the life of several women to demonstrate the Palestinian
conflict. In fact, this long span is to the detriment of the film – way too
much is happening too fast. The storyline regularly skips years or even
decades with little or no explanation of the ensuing time.
start right before the treaty that allowed Israel to become a country in
1948. A well-off Palestinian woman named Hind (a wonderful performance by
Hiam Abbass) is forced by chance and necessity to found a school for the
many Palestinian children who have been left homeless in the skirmishes that
ensued after the Israeli arrival.
we flash forward to 1967 and the Six-Day War, in which Israel took over the
Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, The West Bank and the Golan Heights. The
battles continue to go on, in the meantime Nadia (Yasmine Al Massri) tires
of being raped by her father-in-law and runs away, becoming an alcoholic
bellydancer and befriending a suicide bomber in jail after she gets into an
altercation in a bus.
Nadia has a young daughter, Miral, who her husband mostly cares for because
of Nadia’s instability. Nadia kills herself when Miral is still a girl and
the father takes her to the school to get an education.
Miral grows up to be Frieda Pinto – beautiful, smart, impetuous and
rebellious. Despite the warnings of her headmistress, her father and her
family, she falls in with some terrorist types who want to get the
Palestinian land back. Frankly, though it is not fair to say this, Pinto is
just too attractive for the role. She sometimes comes off as Terrorist
Barbie. It doesn’t help that Pinto is saddled with scenes where her
character does not appear to be so much motivated by political passion as
she is petulance, disrespect and pigheadedness.
have no doubt whatsoever that Mr. Schnabel – whose wife is Palestinian and
inspired him to take on this subject matter – feels that Miral is an
important work of art. Oddly, I’d guess he also looks at it as a piece of
celluloid diplomacy – a Jewish director filming what is essentially a
Palestinian story. In real life, Schnabel is living proof that these
differences can be overcome. Sadly, his movie is not so convincing on the
Unfortunately, the always-interesting director has through time necessity
either cut Rula Jebreal’s source novel too close to the bone or perhaps was
simply too close to the material, for he didn’t notice how flimsy some of
the story is rendered. Too much is happening over too much time and little
of it is properly explored or thought out.
Schnabel also seems to feel the need as a Jewish director not to seem to be
playing favorites, so he goes too far in the other direction, making the
Israelis (with the exception of one woman, played by the director’s daughter
Stella) generic bad guys and refusing to even air the Israeli side of
things. Schnabel might say that those views belong to another story – and
he may even be right about that – but that does
not stop Miral from feeling one-sided, so much so that the finishing
dedication that this film was made for the people
on both sides who still hope for peace seems just a little disingenuous.
movie is beautifully filmed and mostly very well acted. I find it
hard to believe Schnabel will ever make an ordinary film, but Miral
is as undistinguished a piece of work as one of his films has been so far.
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: July 12, 2011.