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I lined up outside the United Nations with some apprehension.  I was about to view the opening of the acclaimed Israeli-Palestinian film Miral.  Since I had rsvp’d to view the film, the Israeli government, as well as prominent U.S.-based Jewish groups including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, had protested the showing – and I did not wish to participate in an anti-Israeli event.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_A
Freida Pinto plays Rula Jabreal in “Miral.” Photo courtesy of Weinstein Company.

The great U.N. General Assembly hall quickly filled to capacity – 1200 people sat through perhaps the first Palestinian-Israeli epic.  I was delighted that the film was not anti-Israeli in the least – it was rather an extremely moving narrative of an orphaned girl, Israeli-Palestinian, set during the 1987 Palestinian uprising.  It showed the horror of her childhood – from atrocities committed by both Palestinians and Israelis – and random acts of kindness from both that kept her alive.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_B
Vanessa Redgrave, Hiam Abbass, and Willem Dafoe in Miral.
Photo courtesy of Weinstein Company.

The film, directed by Julian Schnabel and shot in Jerusalem and the West Bank, was deeply disturbing, thought-provoking, and incredibly poignant.  Based on Julian’s film Basquiat, the biopic on the Haitian-American painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1996) whose life ended too soon, I had believed it would be.  Miral is distributed by the Weinstein Company, who recently brought us another moving film, The King’s Speech.

Julian, raised in a Jewish family in Brooklyn by a mother that belonged to Hadassah, stated:

I love the State of Israel. I believe in it, and my film is about preserving it, not hurting it.  Understanding is part of the Jewish way and Jewish people are supposed to be good listeners.  But, if we don’t listen to the other side, we can never have peace.  Instead of saying ‘no,’ I ask the A.J.C. to say ‘yes,’ see 'Miral' and join the discussion.

Julian is, in addition to a brilliant film director, an accomplished painter and sculptor.  During his remarks at the General Assembly, he mused:

I never thought a Jewish guy would be the one to tell this story, but I need to, to allow myself to heal.  If we listen to the other side, there might be a possibility of advancing peace.

I was particularly impressed with the President of the General Assembly, the Hon. Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, whom I wrote to compliment for his courage to host this cry for peace in Mideast from the eyes of Israeli-Palestinian orphan.  It is obvious that 63 years of political diplomacy have not brought the world closer to a much-needed two-state solution.  Perhaps the film Miral will have more influence than all of the diplomatic resolutions combined.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_C
Julian Schnabel and Freida Pinto as Miral on location. Photo: Weinstein Company.

As founder of Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW), I have worked closely with former presidents of the General Assembly, including Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockman and H.E. Haya Rashed Al, but I had not yet dealt with the current General Assembly president, Joseph Deiss.  I found the current president Joseph Deiss to be a man of extreme integrity.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_D
The gorgeous Rula Jabreal wrote the book the film is based on. Photo: John Lee.

The focus of the film is the childhood of a real woman, Rula Jebrealas, who attended the screening.  She escaped a challenging upbringing on a scholarship to Italy, where she lives today.  Rula said:

Miral is a story about human beings -- Palestinian, Israeli, Muslim, Jewish and Christian -- and it explores how we all react differently to the violence around us, whether physical, emotional, political, or otherwise.  It is a film about love, education, understanding, and peace.  That seems like a good thing to show at the United Nations.

Rula’s character was played brilliantly by Freida Pinto, known for her inspirational acting in Slumdog Millionaire.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_E
Freida Pinto stars in Julian Schnabel’s Miral. Courtesy of the Weinstein Company.

According to Rebecca Sacks in Vanity Fair:

Schnabel first met Jebreal at a party in 2007, when Schnabel was still married to his second wife, Olatz Lopez Garmendia.  He was so impressed with the book (and its stunning author) that he was inspired to make the film. Schnabel and Jebreal promptly fell in love, and now live together at Palazzo Chupi, Schnabel’s famed pink-stucco Italo-condo in New York’s West Village.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_F

The film Mirabel seems to be a Rorschach test for the viewer – if you are
pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, you see the film from your own perspective.  
If you support both, as I do, you see it as a cry for peace in a land divided.

The atrocities portrayed are vivid and remain with the viewer, searing one’s consciousness: a Palestinian young woman being beaten by an Israeli prison guard, a Palestinian girl raped by her step-father, and the Israeli army demolishing a Palestinian home as the elderly residents weep.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_G
I spoke with Miral’s director Julian Schnabel following the screening. Photo John Lee.

Author Rula Jabreal explained her vision and hopes to Vanity Fair:

Jebreal is passionate on the topic of the film’s rating, explaining how Miral could be a tool for education, showing young women what it’s like to grow up amidst violence and fear.  “Infotainment,” as Jebreal calls it.  Miral is also being protested by some as anti-Israeli.  “I simply wanted to tell my story and the story of my family.  It’s not an accusation; it’s a love letter to my country and for many girls -- Israeli and Palestinian,” Jebreal says.  “Education saved my life.  I’m promoting peace and education.”

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_H
Julian Schnabel and Rula Jabreal on location. Photo: Weinstein Company.

The film opening attracted a plethora of Hollywood humanitarians, including Sean Penn, Robert De Niro, Vanessa Redgrave, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Weinstein, and Josh Brolin.  One of my heroes, Dan Rather, MC’d the Q&A that followed the screening.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_I
Dan Rather moderated the panel following the screening. Photo: John Lee.

Dan Rather, one of the preeminent television newscasters of our times, told me following the screening:

This is an incredibly moving film.  It is a true story told in a medium that brings history to the screen.  It is a hot-button issue film, as were Philadelphia and My Left Foot.

The panel discussion featured the director, the author, Rabbi Irwin Kula, journalist Mona Eltahawy, and Yonatan Shapira, co-founder of Combatants for Peace and was a former captain in the Israeli Air Force Reserves.  Yonatan organized a group of pilots who refused to fly attack missions on Palestinian territories in 2003.  Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, called the film a new form of peacemaking.  “This is a meditation on empathy,” said this eighth-generation rabbi.

Rula Jabreal‘s book and now the film Miral concerns the vitality of education.  An uneducated woman in Palestine has limited options, Rula believes, and either becomes a prostitute, or even worse, a suicide bomber.  Education contains the seeds of rebellion.  Miral, Julian Schnabel believes, could be a Tibetan, a Chechen, a Kurd, a Tutsi, or a Hutu.

Julian believes everyone has a story.  “We need to hear these small, human stories more than we need to hear about the conflicts that surround them.  We need to find empathy, for you cannot make peace without empathy,” he said.

Miral_Cry_for_Peace _in_Mideast_J
Freida Pinto as Miral with Alexander Siddig as her father. Photo: Weinstein Company.

From what I have seen of the world, I could not agree more strongly.  The film is a mirror of evil in the world that can be overcome by education and tolerance.  Rula Jabreal and Julian Schnabel are not anti-Israeli, but rather pro-humanity.  They are true thought leaders and global citizens whose vision should inspire us all.

Miral was directed by Julian Schnabel; written by Rula Jabreal, based on her novel; director of photography, Eric Gautier; edited by Juliette Welfling; production design by Yoel Herzberg; produced by Jon Kilik; released by the Weinstein Company. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes.  With Hiam Abbass (Hind Husseini), Freida Pinto (Miral), Alexander Siddig (Jamal), Omar Metwally (Hani), Yasmine Al Massri (Nadia), Ruba Blal (Fatima), Willem Dafoe (Eddie), Vanessa Redgrave (Berta) and Stella Schnabel (Lisa).
See Stories by Jim Luce on:

Extremism   |   Film   |   Islam   |   Israel   |   Orphans  |   Palestine   |    Peace   | U.N.

Originally posted to Thought Leaders & Global Citizens on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 10:09 AM PDT.

Also republished by oo.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    My web sites: jimluce.com, twitter.com/jim-luce, lucefoundation.org, oiww.org, huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce, jimluce.dailykos.com

    by jimluce on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 10:09:29 AM PDT

    •  From what I read, it's not a very good film... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dvo, TakeMeOutOfMyMissouri, Moshe789

      for a number of reasons, some of which are at Rotten Tomatoes.

      One could also look at movie review intelligence.

      With respect to Dan Rather, I suggest that this film will win no Oscars like the others he mentioned, not even an honorable mention.  There is a tendency to overstate and this is clearly an example.

      I also think many would disagree with the diarist that it is not anti-Israeli, but instead presents a one-sided, political view, recognized by many who have no political agenda.

      If I knew how to put up a picture, I would include a poster that I saw showing a poster with the innocent face of Dalal Mughrabi, asking if hers was the face of a terrorist, but in her case we know the answer.

      This is merely the diarist's Rorschach, and the diarist can therefore not recognize the bias so evident to so many others.

      •  Well done on pissing in the tip jar (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Celtic Merlin

        Readers will now get caught up in the ugly argument you're starting, before they ever get to the more balanced comments below.

        HRed for the queue-jumping attempt to derail the discussion.

        Please, everyone, let this thread die, and proceed to the discussions below.

        "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

        by Brecht on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 11:51:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry, HR too likely to => flamewar; so removed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Celtic Merlin

          citizen53's comment is less offensive to me than the queue-jumping in order to derail.

          "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

          by Brecht on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 11:56:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You can see I tried to derail nothing... (0+ / 0-)

            but offered a substantive comment, yet you jumped to conclusions about my intentions.  So who is pissing here?

          •  He/she is a derailment specialist. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brecht

            Check most any I/P diary not written by one of his/her buddies and you'll see all sorts of misdirection, jacking, etc. out of this person.

            Good decision on the HR, BTW.  It would have only caused more BS to flow.  I should have attached my reply to the TJ to prevent nastiness like this person's attempt to take a dump in a diary about a movie that they hate with a passion.  I didn't do so because I never expected them to stoop so low.  I'll know better next time.

            Celtic Merlin
            Carlinist

            Sorry I couldn't take your call. I'm using my cell phone to make pancakes. Please leave a message.

            by Celtic Merlin on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 07:22:51 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I appreciate your input, and will keep it in mind. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Celtic Merlin

              I'm not going to dig up citizen53's tracks to keep this fight going here.

              But if citizen53 does this again, it will show that he has been lying here about hitting the wrong button, and I will certainly HR him for derailing and damaging discussion.

              My suggestion to you would be not to jump the tip jar in future, even to prevent this problem, as it may merely exacerbate it. I see it leading to an escalating arms race, not a clearer discussion.

              If we are now the community moderation, it's up to all of us to watch for those who habitually post inflammatory responses to tip jars, and who HR comments that smell dubious to them before they've even asked the commenter to explain themselves, so that we can clear the way for those who actually want to have a discussion.

              "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

              by Brecht on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 08:06:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Don't you all have something better to do? (0+ / 0-)

                What a bunch of nonsense.  Someone tells you something, and you assume it's fabricated.  I do not live to jump tip jars or play these games.  Sorry.  Nor do I care much for dumb etiquette.  The diarist should be glad I at least took the time to comment.

                As for the person who advised you about me, what was said, as to me, is pure fabrication.  Take it as you will.

                •  "The diarist should be glad I at least... (0+ / 0-)

                  took the time to comment.''

                  Then you should be glad I at least took the time to reply.

                  "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

                  by Brecht on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 06:52:56 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Except your reply was not about the diary... (0+ / 0-)

                    so I don't agree with your reasoning.

                    •  I see scant reasoning behind all your defensive (0+ / 0-)

                      blustering.

                      The only sensible thing you've said so far is "I hit the wrong button..."

                      "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

                      by Brecht on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 09:35:17 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Better than your sandbox tantrum... (0+ / 0-)

                        and the fact that you are obsessed about jumping tip jars and other such nonsense.  I guess we all must have out priorities.

                        You criticize me not being sensible, but my original comment was about the topic of the diary, completely.  Conversely, here is what matters to you:

                        But if citizen53 does this again, it will show that he has been lying here about hitting the wrong button, and I will certainly HR him for derailing and damaging discussion.

                        Quite sensible indeed!  

                        Yes, the diary failed because of me.  You have saved Daily Kos with your vigilance over form and you keep harping after I clearly said I was trying to post a comment and hit the wrong button.

                        So much for showing who has which priorities.  I am perfectly comfortable with my own, which are far from the petty behavior I believe you have reflected.

                        •  We haven't had much of an exchange of ideas, (0+ / 0-)

                          have we?

                          Along with your bluster, I can see that you also have made sincere attempts at dialog. We will probably have a more productive conversation another day, as I think you are capable of worthwhile debate.

                          On the other hand, you have been in I/P for years now, and you're well aware of the damage that intentional derailment frequently wreaks, when the diaries in question could and should have promoted much healthier discussion. So I know there is at least some disingenuity in your trivializing the issue I first called you on.

                          "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

                          by Brecht on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 11:32:41 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  That is not my problem... (0+ / 0-)

                            if others choose to behave badly.  My comment in this thread was substantive, to state my observations and thoughts.

                            That you still wish to cast aspersions about my "dis-ingenuity" says it all.  Apparently, you are not simply showing an anal need to enforce rules, but now know me better than I know myself.

                            Frankly, I find it odd that people care so much about where a comment is placed, yet are cavalier, as you are, about impugning others and calling into question their honesty.  You would make a fine prosecutor with that approach.

                            Think whatever you want.  I suspect that nothing I say will get you to look at your own behavior here, which perhaps you should.

                          •  The main thing I've learned here is that (0+ / 0-)

                            when you make a mistake, you write 5 words acknowledging it, and 400 words evading the issue.

                            "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

                            by Brecht on Mon Apr 18, 2011 at 01:39:15 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Evading what? (0+ / 0-)

                            I've been more up front than you have here.

                            It seems YOU are evading that you must be a priggish protector of etiquette and, in doing so, malign others.

                            Perhaps if you had just accepted what I said, yet you could not help yourself.

                            At this point, you evade your own behavior and now pretend that you are just a passive actor.

        •  I hit the wrong button... (0+ / 0-)

          but the etiquette police are on patrol today.  Thanks for protecting the community.

  •  How dare you? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    businessdem, Eiron, ybruti, weasel, Brecht

    You posted an even-handed review of this film!  You didn't take sides!  You even wrote this:

    Miral is a story about human beings -- Palestinian, Israeli, Muslim, Jewish and Christian -- and it explores how we all react differently to the violence around us . . .

    It is a film about love, education, understanding, and peace.  That seems like a good thing to show at the United Nations.

    But, but, but - it has been denounced by the Israeli government, the ADL and the American Jewish Committee as being an "anti-Israeli" film.  How could it possibly be otherwise?

    American Jewish Committee executive director David Harris said of the film (in writing no less) that "the film has a clear political message, which portrays Israel in a highly negative light" and that showing this film at the UN is "a blatantly one-sided event" (Link to his letter at the bottom of this web page.)

    Yet, you say that it is not any of these things and that showing the film at the UN is a good thing?

    How could this be?

    Actually, not only could it be - it likely IS everything you say that it is and none of the negative things that were said about it.

    I believe you, Mr. Luce.  Thank you for your even-handed review of the film and for your factual account of its story.  All we need now is for it to appear on as many screens as did "The King's Speech".

    Celtic Merlin
    Carlinist

    Sorry I couldn't take your call. I'm using my cell phone to make pancakes. Please leave a message.

    by Celtic Merlin on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 10:50:36 AM PDT

  •  well-written, interesting and persuasive diary; (4+ / 0-)

    really makes me want to see the movie and think about it for myself.

    It seems like just the movie open-minded people will welcome, and be encouraged to consider and debate.

    What's interesting about the critics/popularity scores on it is not the mean, but the standard deviation - how broad a spectrum of responses viewers are having to this movie.

    Thanks, jimluce.

    "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

    by Brecht on Sun Apr 17, 2011 at 12:03:49 PM PDT

  •  Today this boy died (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dvo
    A 16-year-old Israeli boy who was wounded when an anti-tank rocket fired from Gaza hit a school bus 10 days ago died Sunday of his injuries without regaining consciousness, a hospital spokeswoman said.
    See AP Story

    I truly admire this Jewish director for making a movie telling the Miral story.  

    But we'll only have a true peace when Palestinians also are willing to make and show movies about the horror of the killing of a 16 year old Jewish boy on an Israeli school bus by an anti-tank rocket fired from Gaza.  There will be peace only when Palestinians stop calling those firing these weapons heroes and start calling them murderers.

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