From the director Julian Schnabel comes an incredible portrait of Rula Jebreal’s early life in the West Bank. The film is based on her book “Miral” which is a strongly autobiographical account of the things she has seen, lived and experienced as a Palestinian girl growing up during the 70’s and 80’s.
Now if the name Rula Jebreal doesn’t ring a bell for you; she’s a journalist who has hosted several talk shows of her own (where she interviewed various distinguished important political personalities from Italy, Palestine, Israel, and Europe), and has covered the most heated issues in the Middle East. Aside from her work, she also makes her fair share of rounds around Democracy Now!, Al Jazeera, and others media channels.
I just finished watching the film and I can’t help but think this is one of the most ambitious films I’ve seen lately—and I can’t be happier with the word Ambitious for it fits this film perfectly. Let me explain.
To begin with, anyone who sets out to portray the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in any way is faced with a most ambitious task.
It is difficult,
and full of different facets that need to be shown—it’s a maze, with mirrors, and infinite rabbit holes.
Having stated that, you should expect a loaded movie.
After finishing it, I can almost feel the director’s burning desire to further the plot and show so much more of the story, yet he’s forced to pick and choose the main points that will come together cohesively in two hours.
(Note that the stories are real, not just hers.)
With Miral, you get a fabric of experiences and people that are woven together to form a blanket that gives warmth to a personal story told through an intimate perspective.
Miral gives you the story of Hind Husseini (a woman who takes in 55 orphans from the Deir Yassin massacre and forms a school that will eventually host thousands of children); it gives you the story of Miral’s mother and how an abusive past leads her to alcoholism and suicide; it gives you the story of Miral’s mother’s prison mate (“the Three Life Sentences Terrorist”) who’s nothing more than a nurse being punished for having done something good among all the bad and the destruction she witnessed as a nurse.
Most importantly, it gives you a look into what it is to be a teenager (overflowing with extreme emotions of anger, passion, desire, naiveté and wisdom all together) living in the climax of the First Intifada. It lets you in on how a people’s youth is sometimes the only hope to hang onto and it shows you a love story maintained not by dates but by activist plots. This is a love that propagates in kisses but is sparked by the desire to be politically free.
And although this would be an issue worthy of an entire book, Miral also gives you a very interesting look on how a Palestinian girl upholds a friendship with an Israeli Jew. Briefly, Miral develops a friendship with a Jewish girl, and through this connection the viewer learns the complexity of dealing with animosity and overcoming personal baggage. The development of this relationship is particularly interesting to me because it opens up a can of worms (good worms, mind you) that give room to observe the intricacies of a current youth living with a past generation and compromising new, more tolerant outlooks with those that are a bit older and still remain today. This can apply anywhere between political compromises among the nations to the personal compromises of a torn people (i.e.: the idea of a Palestinian Muslim making friends with an Israeli Jew or vice-versa; the issue of sleeping with “the enemy” and so forth).
And of course, there’s a lot more depth to be explored.
As I mentioned before, the volume of information can seem overwhelming but Schnabel is determined to show a thread that connects all of these stories to show that—yes, it’s a troublesome, and loaded, and confusing, and tortuous issue, but that is the reality of the land. It is a reflection of the ongoing conflict; and while it is confusing, it is connected. It is a fractured land with endless facets yet it still has to wake up every morning and figure out how to breathe for one more day.
Naturally, I suggest you watch it and hope you’re not discouraged by its weight. Although it is loaded, the film gives you just enough of each issue to pique your interest and to make you shed a tear with each story portrayed.