by Del Harvey
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Director Julian Schnabel’s latest stars the talented Frieda Pinto and the earnest Willem Dafoe. In this very moving story, Ms. Pinto plays a Palestinian girl who comes of age at the height of the 1984 conflict.
Miral is a dark political drama with deep undercurrents often only found in, say, reading a novel. Being political in nature, the director takes viewpoints which some may dislike. But that is the very nature of making a political drama; much of the time a line must be drawn. Still, it is quite possible to sit back and recall that it is only a movie and it is just one perspective. I believe in doing so the viewer will not only open themselves up to a more enjoyable experience, but will also discover much greater nuance in both performance and perspective.
In 1948 Palestine, following the implementing of the UN’s two-state solution, social worker Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass) takes in 55 Palestinian orphans displaced by military action. Almost by accident, she starts a girls’ orphanage and school. Miral is a visceral, first-person account of a young girl growing up in East Jerusalem as she confronts the effects of occupation and war in every corner of her life.
For many, this film will be a breath of fresh air because, although it is a political film, it comes with a message of hope. This is a much-needed break from the today’s typical fare of big budget action and special effects which tend to lose the characters and any depth in story somewhere along the way. Although many may find Schnabel’s film a bit uneven by comparison, for me it was a simple pleasure and a well-crafted effort.
Rounding out the film’s talented international cast are Yasmine Al Massri (Caramel), Alexander Siddig (TV’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Syriana), Ruba Bial (Atash), Omar Metwaly (Munich, Rendition), and Academy Award® winner Vanessa Redgrave (the upcoming Coriolanus, Atonement).
The MIRAL Blu-ray™ and DVD bonus features include deleted scenes; “The Making of Miral” featurette; a Studio Tour with Julian Schnabel; a Filmmaker Q&A; and an Audio Commentary with director Julian Schnabel and producer Jon Kilik. Note: Special features are subject to change.
Miral releases on July 12, 2001.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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