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"Miral"
Reviewer:
Roxanne Romero
Studio: Anchor Bay
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
7/12/2011
Special Features:

Feature Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes

Review:

"Miral" centers around the relationship between three women over the course of several years. Opening in 1947, "Miral" begins at a Christmas party hosted by Bertha Spafford (Vanessa Redgrave). Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass) is there, enjoying the celebration, visiting with the hostess and meeting her nephew, Eddie (Willem Dafoe). Everything is joyful and, though, they discuss the nature of things in Palestine, they toast to a future of happiness. As she returns home, Hind encounters a large group of children, dirty and scared. They plead to her, asking for their parents, and describing a massacre that has occurred. Wasting no time, Hind takes the children in. She brings them to her family home, which gets dubbed "Dar Al-Tifi". Through some clever and delicate maneuvering, Hind manages to keep the school open and funded, but cut off from government ties or any other affiliation. She receives help from people in the community, such as a powerful sheik, Saabah, Eddie from the Christmas party and an imam from the nearby mosque named Jamal (Alexander Siddig). She is completely dedicated to educating the young girls in her school, telling Eddie that she wants them to know and embrace their Palestinian heritage, but become than those that came before.***

Unprotected by the shelter of Dar Al-Tifi, Nadia (Yasmine Elmasri) flees her home and family because her step-father sexually abused her. She copes with a steady stream of alcohol and belly dancing. As she rides on the bus one day, a Jewish girl insults her by calling her an Arab. Nadia quickly slaps her in the face, causing a nose bleed. She is sent to jail, where she meets Fatima (Ruba Blal), a former nurse, who is serving three life sentences for planting a bomb in a movie theatre. They bond and when Fatima's brother visits, she begs him to take care of Nadia when she is released. Fatima's brother is Jamal, who we saw briefly before bringing a child to Hind's school. He marries Nadia, but despite his best efforts, the marriage is not good. Nadia is unable to cope with her tormented life, often drinking herself into a stupor, then stumbling out at night, leaving Jamal to raise their young daughter, Miral. Ultimately, she swims out into the ocean and we never see her again. Fearing for Miral's safety, Jamal turns to Hind, and asks her to take in Miral. She agrees and Miral is raised and educated in the sheltered walls of the school, visiting her father every weekend.***

But, the world around her has grown more unstable and Miral is not content to sit back and do nothing. During a mission from Hind to go teach in the refugee camps, Miral is exposed to the conflict for the first real time as she watches the Israelis destroy the home of some Palestinians. She goes to a peace rally against Hind's wishes and watches as her best friend is killed. She is saved by a young rebel, Hani (Omar Metwally), who wants to see Palestine it's own state. The pair quickly bond and Miral is pulled into the conflict. Her relationship with Hani causes her to be arrested, and beaten when she refuses to talk to the authorities. The next day, however, the judge releases her to her father after he sees how badly she was treated.***

Throughout the film, Miral is being pulled in so many directions by the three most important people in her life: Her father, Hani and Hind, all who want what is best for her and their people, just in different ways. Ultimately, after some tragic turns, Miral decides for herself to leave the country after the Oslo Accords to study. ***

Written and adapted for the screen by Rula Jebreal, "Miral" is a semi-autobiographical tale which chronicles the lives of three Palestinian women who did nothing less than live in the midst of all the conflict around them. The film is artfully crafted, and Director Julian Schnabel does a great job integrating historical footage to supplement the world surrounding them. He also uses various film techniques to show the passage of time between the women's lives. At times, his techniques are overwhelming and seem to pull the focus from the message portrayed. The camera is moving so much in strange ways that it's difficult to make out exactly what you are seeing. However, once you do make it out, it's worth it. A key element which makes the film so real is the locations used. Because Jebreal was there, she knows people in Jerusalem, who were more than willing to help in the production of the film. Hind Husseini's family even allowed the filmmakers into the real Dar Al-Tifi to film. A great deal of the film's main plot is told through Arabic and Hebrew, which really adds to the ambiance. Most DVD players default the English subtitles, but if yours doesn't, I highly recommend you flip those on.***

Freida Pinto is mesmerizing as the title character, Miral. She is strong, yet innocent and opinionated. It's difficult to pull your eyes away from her as she really lights up the screen. Interestingly enough, Pinto and writer Rula Jebreal look so much alike, that Jebreal's best friend mistook Pinto for her when they met. Hiam Abbass is my personal favorite in the film. She portrays Hind Husseini, a real life woman whose school is portrayed in the film and still exists today. She is simply inspirational. Alexander Siddig, who plays Miral's father, Jamal, is a true high point in the film. His relationship with Miral is the most touching and real. It's the love they share that really grounds Miral and helps her grow. Pinto and Siddig had an incredible connection with eachother on screen. It was difficult to keep tears out of my eyes as she told her father how much she loved him. While the subject matter is delicate, the film is very careful not to really point any fingers. There are no bad or good guys in "Miral", simply people, whose lives are tragically affected by the conflict around them, no matter the side they are on.***

Special Features:

Keeping with the artistic flow of the film, we are offered a few different choices for special features, which give us behind the scenes looks and little tidbits of information we may not have otherwise known. "Commentary with Director Julian Schnabel and Producer Jon Kilik" is exactly what it sounds like. Schnabel spends most of the time describing what we are already seeing on screen, though, he does toss in a few interesting facts. "The Making of 'Miral'" is the most compelling of the features offered. It combines on-set footage with interviews from Schnabel, Jebreal, Abbass and Pinto. Jebreal is very engaging, especially as she and Pinto sit across from one another and discuss the different elements and relationships in the film, even making comments about how alike they look. Rounding out our special features is the "Filmaker Q&A", which is a taping of the panel that followed the film screening at the Chicago Palestine Film Festival. The weirdest thing about the special features was the inclusion of "Julian Schnabel Studio Tour", which was him pointing out his paintings. I really didn't get the connection to the movie or to the other feature being that those were all so centered around "Miral", and this was not. There are also three deleted scenes, all of which could have been easy fit back into the film, though, their roles were not that significant. ---

Final Words:

It's an authentic, moving story about three woman, struggling to survive as their nation struggles to make peace without bloodshed. "Miral" is more than worth your time. Give peace a chance and make the choice to watch these women stand for something that we so often take for granted.

 

 
 
 
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