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Julian Schnabel: 'Miral' is now shorter, more appealing

March 15, 2011 | 12:36 pm

As it garners some much-needed press over a controversial screening at the United Nations, Julian Schnabel's Palestinian drama "Miral" also is looking to get a break for another reason: It's a different movie than the one critics and reporters saw in the fall.

Originally intended as a December release and 2010 awards contender, the personal-as-political tale quickly found itself in a pickle when it played the Venice and Toronto film festivals: It was a review-driven movie that wasn't getting very good reviews.

Writing in Variety in September, Justin Chang noted that "Schnabel's signature blend of splintered storytelling and sobering humanism feels misapplied to this sweeping multi-generational saga of four Arab women living under Israeli occupation, the youngest of which, Miral, emerges a bland totem of hope rather than a compelling movie subject ... at a certain point, the characters begin speaking almost exclusively in soundbites." The Guardian later said that the film had gotten itself into a "terrible muddle" with its focus on disparate characters.

"Miral's" U.S. release date was pushed back as distributor the Weinstein Co. focused on its other award contenders. The Freida Pinto-starring film is now coming out in the relative quiet of March, opening in limited release next weekend.

Schnabel says the movie that will play theaters is not the same movie that pundits judged in the fall. The director tells 24 Frames that his political tale -- which is based on the coming-of-age memoir of girlfriend Rula Jebreal --  is now a full 13 minutes shorter, which takes it from nearly two hours to 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Gone is the archival footage of post-Oslo Accord celebrations from the end of a film, as well a funeral at the movie's opening that sets the tone for one of the film's key subjects. "It stays more with the characters instead of the topic," Schnabel said.

A film can sometimes contract as it moves from festival to commercial theater, although a cut of 13 minutes is decidedly on the larger end of the spectrum. (The director said he collaborated with Harvey Weinstein, who is known for a proactive approach in the editing room, in making the trims. "He has excellent ideas, and I tried some different things," Schnabel said.)

Without singling anyone out, Schnabel said that he was irked by the early coverage, some of which pondered the idea of an Indian actress playing a Palestinian character. "I read some pretty stupid reviews, where people said silly things about Freida," Schnabel said. "If you saw her and Rula, they could be sisters."

Schnabel said that the critical ambivalence was counterbalanced for him by "beautiful comments from people I respect" such as directors Jonathan Demme, Bernardo Bertolucci and Milos Forman.

As for why his film was generating controversy -- as my colleagues Melissa Maerz and Nicole Sperling report, several Jewish groups protested the U.N. screening last night -- Schnabel chalked it up to kneejerk politics. "I think this is a hot topic, and you press that button and people go crazy. That's a huge reason why I made the movie. Because somebody needs to make this film."

-- Steven Zeitchik



Screening of Miral at the United Nations draw protests

Miral courts controversy ahead of its U.S. screenings

Miral director Julian Schnabel: I'm confounded by the ideological criticisms

 Photo: Freida Pinto in "Miral." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


Comments () | Archives (3)

The comments to this entry are closed.

The only reason why this movie is "controversial" is because it gives Palestinians a voice which American's are not used too. What is happening in the holy land is not black and white. But sadly our media is the only media in the world that refuses to show the Palestinian point of view, or to give any voice to the Palestinians. Are the Palestinians completely innocent? Far from it! But if one sees the actions of Israel, which few Americans ever do, it becomes very easy to see why Palestinian terrorism exists!

It is controversial because it brings humanity to the Palestinian people. It brings context and background to the ongoing conflict supported by the US governmetn adn its citizens.

Humanity given to Palestinians and context has that has never been done in the popular US media machine concerning this awful I/P conflict.

The film became 'controversial' because of the decision to screen it at the world's largest and most influential anti-Israel screening room: the UN General Assembly. Before that it was just another, and not very good film, by the measure of most of its reviews. The first sentence of this article says it all: the film makers were looking for publicity and that's what they got/bought(?)


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