A drama centered on an orphaned Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of Arab-Israeli war who finds herself drawn into the conflict.A drama centered on an orphaned Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of Arab-Israeli war who finds herself drawn into the conflict.A drama centered on an orphaned Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of Arab-Israeli war who finds herself drawn into the conflict.
You might wonder: Freida Pinto is Indian, so why was she cast as Palestinian? -- Some critics took exception to this, or the idea that she is too beautiful to play an ordinary girl. Are ordinary girls not allowed to be beautiful? And while her Indian heritage may seem out of place, I think this should be overlooked in light of the fact she is a tremendous actress and sold the character well.
What is so great about this film is that the politics are not the issue. The life of a young girl is. This is a film that shows the humanity of the Palestinians -- the DVD cover asks if Miral has the "face of a terrorist". After seeing the film, you have to say no. While the story covers a wide swath of history, from 1947 to the 1993 Oslo agreement, the politics are not the problem.
Schnabel tells me many of the critics were negative, and I do see some complaints that the editing was choppy, or the bizarre remark that Schnabel does not know how to direct women. Presumably many critics took exception to the positive portrayal of the Palestinians and the negative portrayal of the Israelis.
In fact, though, this is how one might view the film if looking for a certain angle. The Israelis are presented negatively, yes, but not inaccurately. But the Palestinians are not really presented positively -- just as human beings. There is still a father telling her daughter not to get mixed up with the PLO, and one scene has a stepfather raping his wife's daughter. That can hardly be seen as being positive (though the real point here is that people should be judged as individuals, not as members of a group).
The cast is all excellent, with plenty of Arab flavor. We have Willem Dafoe (a native of my city, Appleton) and Vanessa Redgrave for the "white" aspect. And then Alexander Siddig, probably best known as Bashir from "Star Trek", somewhere in-between (Siddig was born in Sudan, but was educated in London).
The film is PG-13, making it less raw but more accessible to audiences. This may have toned down the realism a bit, but it in no way compromised the emotional outreach that was a steady undercurrent.
Geoffrey Macnab calls the film "courageous and groundbreaking", while Mike Goodridge calls it "sincere and thought-provoking". Both are correct. The more unusual comment comes from Claudia Puig, who says, "Schnabel puts his unmistakable dreamlike stamp on the film." Now, Schnabel is first and foremost a painter, so his goal is art. But to call this film "dreamlike" just seems off. This struck me as pure realism all the way. But who am I to judge?
Anyway, great film, and one that will be sure to spark discussion regardless of which side (if any) you stand on in the ongoing Middle East debate.
- Jul 11, 2011