Miral, Venice Film Festival

3.00

American artist-turned film-maker Julian Schnabel follows up on his intimate and claustrophobic The Diving Bell and the Butterly (about a stroke victim) with a full-blown epic looking at the Palestinian struggle from 1948 until the mid-1990s. Miral is plodding at times, choppily edited and unevenly performed. It has very little of the aesthetic polish of Schnabel's earlier work and the director is bound to be accused by his critics of political naivete. However, it's also a courageous and groundbreaking film. There aren't any other movies that spring to mind from Oscar-nominated directors that look at post-war Middle Eastern history from the point of view of Palestinian women.

The film is based on the book of the same name by Palestinian-born journalist Rula Jerbeal. The story begins in 1948 with Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass), a well-to-do Palestinian woman, discovering a group of orphan kids abandoned in the street in bombed-out Jerusalem. She takes them in and sets up a school to educate them. This school rapidly grows until it has up to 2000 pupils. One of these – in the mid Seventies – is Miral, a doe-eyed girl with a troubled and tragic family background. Miral (played as a young adult by Freida Pinto) is a 17-year-old at the time of the first intifada and is inexorably drawn into the struggle against the Israelis.

Some of the dialogue in Miral is portentous in the extreme. Characters deliver lines like "this is a very crucial moment for our country – our people can't take it any more" rather than speaking in anything that remotely resembles normal speech. There are distracting cameos from stars like Vanessa Redgrave and Willem Dafoe, who are on screen for a few moments and then disconcertingly disappear from the story without trace. Schnabel is covering three generations but his storytelling style is more cumbersome than nimble. At its most leaden, this is more like a school lecture in Middle Eastern history than it is a piece of drama. Newsreel footage is thrown into the mix in heavy-handed fashion and characters – as they age – suddenly go very grey. Quiet domestic scenes and climactic political moments are juxtaposed in seemingly random manner. Even so, it's hard not to root for Husseini (played with great dignity by Abbass) as she tries to educate the orphan kids and thereby save them from a rootless existence in the refugee camps. Miral herself is played very engagingly by Freida Pinto as a mischievous and idealistic teenager with an acute sense of natural justice.

Schnabel doesn't shirk from showing the brutality of the Israeli state toward the disenfranchised Palestinians. In one especially brutal sequence, Miral, suspected of being part of the intifada, is arrested, whipped and humiliated by the Israeli security forces.

Despite Schnabel's remarks that he is "not a political expert and not trying to be", his film is bound to provoke controversy. If he is accused of anti-Israeli bias, he will doubtless be able to counter that every incident he shows is rooted in historical fact. The strength and importance of Miral lies in its vantage point. Schnabel is offering viewers a perspective on the Middle East that they are unlikely to have seen before in other mainstream movies. What is disappointing is that the storytelling itself isn't just a little more sure-footed.

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering