Cast includes: Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Hiam Abbass (Lemon Tree), Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End), Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man), Alexander Siddig (Cairo Time), Omar Metwally (Rendition)
Director: Julian Schnable (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
Genre: Drama based on actual events (2010)
In brief: Miral is a common red flower that grows along the side of the road. It’s also the name of the Palestinian girl at the center of this story. Before we get to Miral, the filmmaker introduces us to Hind, a Palestinian woman who, in 1948, rescues a group of starving war orphans in Jerusalem. Before long, Hind establishes Dar el Tifl, a school and home for Palestinian orphan girls. She wants the girls to become strong, well educated adults. And she wants them to maintain their Palestinian identity, even though many are citizens of Israel.
Jamal has been bringing orphans to Dar el Tifl for years, so when he finds he cannot take care of his own daughter, Miral, he decides to bring her to Dar el Tifl during the week. Despite family hardships, Miral leads a relatively sheltered life until the 1987 uprising in Palestine. Hind asks some of her girls to go to the refugee camps and become teachers. At the Ramallah camp, Miral is shocked by the brutality of the Israeli occupiers. When she meets Hani, a revolutionary, she learns about the conflict in the West Bank from another perspective, and soon her sympathies are with the rebels. “You don’t know anything,” she tells Hind when Hind tries to convince her that now is her chance to make a difference by educating children.
This is not a black-or-white world, and there are no easy answers, as Miral will discover. The film attempts to show us some of the complexities of life in this area. We’re used to seeing it from an Israeli viewpoint, so it may seem anti-Israeli to view it from the other side. I don’t believe the filmmaker saw it that way, but each film watcher will draw his or her own conclusion. In attempting to show us some of the background of the story, it takes a rather long time before we actually get to Miral’s story. The lengthy back-story may not appeal to those who prefer to know where a film is headed early on. The film is beautifully made, with historical footage mixed in. The cinematography is quite interesting, although the hand-held quality can be dizzying at times. For sure, many will find this one to be controversial… but the issue in this film isn’t about solving the largest problems in the region. It’s about making a difference. And it’s hard to dispute the value in that.
2 popped kernels
An admirable attempt to show complex issues… it's not completely successful but worthwhile
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Timely topic