The Weinstein Co. has taken a page out of last year's popular Oscar campaign strategy wherein a prominent actor/actress hosts a screening of a friend's film. Both Julia Roberts and Sean Penn did so for Javier Bardem's Oscar contender "Biutiful." And now Oscar nominee Bardem is playing host Tuesday evening for his friend Julian Schnabel, and his new film, "Miral." Schnabel directed Bardem in "Before Night Falls," which earned the Spanish actor his first Academy Award nomination.
The film, starring Freida Pinto as the titular character, centers on a young Palestinian woman growing up during the intifada, and depicts the complex relationship with her Israeli neighbors. Hosting the screening suggests that Bardem is endorsing the film, and he will be participating in a post-screening reception with Schnabel. There won't, however, be a question-and-answer session such as those that were so popular during awards season.
Distributor Harvey Weinstein has marketed this film masterfully since acquiring it last June prior to the film's worldwide debut at the Venice Film Festival. The company has said it was Schnabel's decision to woo the United Nations into hosting the film's U.S. premiere, but Weinstein had to know how effective such a decision would be. The controversial film, which many Jewish organizations find offensive for its negative portrayal of Israelis, garnered a slew of publicity thanks to the screening last week at the U.N. (A handful of Jewish organizations, such as the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, came out against the U.N.'s decision to screen the film in the General Assembly hall. A couple of other groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace and American Jews for a Just Peace, supported the film.) Now it should gain even more attention from Bardem's endorsement.
The movie, which has received middling reviews from the festival circuit, bows Friday in limited release. It will be interesting to see if the additional attention placed on the movie translates to a stronger box-office performance.
-- Nicole Sperling
Photo: Freida Pinto and Omar Metwally in "Miral." Credit: Jose Haro / The Weinstein Co.