Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Film Review: Miral

Upon my mother's suggestion, I recently saw the film Miral starring the lovely Frieda Pinto (from Slumdog Millionaire) and directed by Academy Award nominated director Julian Schnabel (who also directed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). This film is a Jerusalem-based biopic that follows the emotional story of four Palestinian women whose lives are intertwined between 1948 (the year of the 1948 Arab-Israel war, the Deir Yassin massacre and the subsequent founding of the state of Israel as a nation) to the years of the 1st Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the  late 1980's and early 1990's here in Israel.



The story focuses on the life and work of Hind Husseini, a young Palestinian woman who rescues a large group of Palestinian refugees and provides food and shelter for them, eventually turning her grandfather's home into a school for them (a school which still stands today, called Dar  Al-Tifel Institute). Her mission in life is that through education, peace will prevail. The school soon grows to over 2,000 students as the number of orphans increases in size. One of Hind's prized students is Miral, played by Freida Pinto, who comes to the school as a young girl 10 years after its opening. Miral's journey is symbolic of many of the young men and women's journeys as she struggles with a personal battle between war and peace, love and hate during one of the most tempestuous times in Israel's history (which time is not, though, may I ask...). Miral's internal struggle is centered around her love affair with a Palestinian activist in contrast to her relationship with Mama Hind whose message is that education is the road to peace.

 


My first reaction to the film, of course, was anger (as was the initial response of many critics) because of the fact that it portrays Israel and Israelis in a negative light. However, for the sake of understanding (and because I am a counselor who believes that both sides have valid arguments), I still understand the human plight and loss and misfortune that those on the other side suffer. The truth is that both parties have a story to tell; both sides have a tragic history filled with loss and suffering. It would have been nice to see the director portray more of the Israeli side, however, it is understandable given that the movie is loosely based on his Palestinian-born wife's upbringing in the West Bank, the beautiful Rula Jebreal.

 

I questioned whether or not I wanted to post about this film because of the fact that I believe the film is so one-sided. This can be dangerous, especially in a time when Israel's political situation is on edge. It provides motivation for the opposing party to move to action.  This is extraordinarily dangerous in a time where social media is as powerful as it is. Just recently, nearly half a million Palestinian supporters (learning from the crises in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia) advocated a Facebook page calling for the beginning of the 3rd Intifada here in Israel. Thankfully, Mark Zuckerberg finally came to his senses and had the page, which is a call for terrorism and violence, removed. See the article here. It did not take long for the page to reestablish itself. The reality of what this might be bring is terrifying. Regardless, as you can understand, motivation moves like wildfire with social media; and with films like Miral, where there is a bias toward one side of a conflict, it only leads to trouble. I feel that I can do my part by at least highlighting the bias and acknowledging that though their pain may be real, it is only half the story. I hope everyone who views the film realizes this critical point.

At the same time, I can suggest an abundance of films which highlight the Israeli and Jewish point of view, including Life is Beautiful; Schindler's List; Uprising; Suicide Killers; Entering Zion; Munich, and the list goes on. The fact of the matter is this: both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict have an indefinite list of examples of why they are the victims amidst the conflict. However, in the end, peace truly is the only favorable outcome for both groups. I think the film Miral hints at this, even through its biased viewpoint. 

 

For those of you who are interested, you can see the film here (I used link #4).

2 comments:

  1. yes both sides suffer however it is clear, not just from the film, that the Palestinian's suffer constant disproportionate abuse from Israel on a daily 24hr basis.. You criticise this film for being one sided however then go on to list many films showing the Israeli view point!! Try looking at this situation objectively and maybe this would help you understand a little better the situation for the Palestinians

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  2. Thank you for your comment. I do see the Palestinian side of things and want others to see it too...which is exactly why I posted this because I want others to see the film. It's a two way street and both sides feel hurt, both sides have been blown significant losses. I needed to acknowledge though that it is a one sided film and that there are other films out there that will show the other side. I have also advocated people to take the tour called "Ir Amim" in Jerusalem which takes you into inner communities in Palestinian territories to see the suffering "on a daily 24hr basis" that you have referred to. So, I am aware of the suffering that you mention.

    It's a two way street and I see both sides. As I mentioned, both sides have significant and painful losses. That is why I hope for peace and see it as the only pliable solution, as the film tries to convey.

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