"Who would not want to see my film?" asked painter/director Julian Schnabel at the premiere of his new movie Miral. Shown at the UN's General Assembly, with a quarter of a million dollar screen and sound equipment supplied by Gucci, Miral reflects Schnabel's scale: out-sized and awesome. Still, his question was provocative and ambiguous, a cry for commerce amidst rumors that the film was not very good and an email campaign by B'nai Brith asking for a boycott, claiming the film is anti-Israel.
In fact, introducing the film in the gigantic space, and for an audience that included Sean Penn, Candice Bergen, Steve Buscemi, Zac Posen, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and many more, Schnabel asserted that he loved Israel and that the film if anything is a plea for peace. Based upon a novel by Rula Jebreal, Miral tells the story of a young Arab girl, an Israeli citizen, caught, in the modern tragedy of the Middle East. No one wants to see children suffer: the film's narrative underscores the aching longing for a workable solution. And, by the way, this is a good film.
Performances by a Freida Pintos Miral, Haim Abbass as the head mistress of a girls' school and Alexander Siddiq as Miral's father are compelling, as are cameos by Vanessa Redgrave and Willem Dafoe, who also attended. The director's daughter Stella Schnabel plays a Jewish girl in love with a Palestinian man. Issues of violence vs. non-violence are weighed. In perhaps the most inflammatory scene, a house is demolished as a helpless family watches -- an insensitive and arbitrary power play by a government obsessed with security. The film does not instigate a new critique. Rather, Schnabel enters into an ongoing discourse in Israel with intellectuals and writers like David Grossman, Amos Oz, and Yehuda Amichai.
Afterwards, Dan Rather led a panel in a conversation extolling the fundamental need for dialogue, for finding new ways toward peace. No one could argue with that. Journalist Mona Eltahawy, Rabbi Irwin Kula, former Israeli Yonatan Schapira all agreed with Rula Jabreal and Julian Schnabel, noting the irony that it would take a Jewish man--Schnabel's mother was active in Hadassah-to tell this story.
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