It’s not often that a movie’s theatrical release is an historic moment. But Miral, which opens today in LA and NYC, is the first Hollywood film to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of Palestinians Palestinian women, at that. The film is based on the autobiographical novel of Rula Jebreal, the Palestinian journalist, who was born in Haifa, raised in East Jerusalem, has lived in the Middle East, Europe and, most recently, New York. Directed by the New York-based Jewish-American artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, Miral offers glimpses of history, as experienced by Palestinian women, starting with the formation of Israel and ending with the Oslo Accords. It premiered at the UN’s General Assembly, on March 14th, drawing stars from Robert de Niro to Sean Penn, along with a storm of protest.
Schnabel’s Jewish credentials are true blue–and white. His mother was the President of the Brooklyn Chapter of Haddassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization, in 1948, during the establishment of Israel as a state. Schnabel recalls seeing Exodus at Manhattan’s Rivoli Theater with his parents: “Everybody stood up when they sang ‘Hatikvah,’ and put their hands on their chests. My mother and father were very proud.” But Schnabel’s history and his film’s vision mattered little to the film’s critics. Seeing the movie, in fact, mattered little to the Israeli Government, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League, who, on principle, (unsuccessfully) called on the UN to cancel its March 14th screening.
This week, days before Miral’s release, I talked to Rula Jebreal about her life, her story, the film, violence, and her optimism for a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.