Thursday, December 8, 2011

Miral sets the pace for Flashpoint

Miral, the celebrated film of Director Julian Schnabel set the pace as the inaugural film for the 2nd Human Rights film festival - Flashpoint at the Alliance Francaise de Bombay here last evening.

With the added attraction of a spirited performance by Freida Pinto, the movie was a perfect start to what promised to be world class fare in Human rights films over the next three days. Miral, which is a red flower, which blooms in the Palestinian desert, is only the second outing for Freida who has only been seen in the Oscar Nominated film Slumdog millionaire till now, So, the film which manages to blur the line between cinema and Documentary, also perhaps slots Freida as an actress committed to ‘meaningful cinema’.

Here she plays a school girl, growing up in a hostel for orphaned and abandoned children in the midst of the Arab-Israeli war in the 1970s and 80s. She and other girls are shaken out of their protected life, when they witness the brutality of Israeli soldiers during an outing to a refugee camp. From then on, the fire in her is ignited and she declares “we have to do something” to the indomitable Mama Hind (Played by Hiam Abbas) who has nurtured this home for children and protected them fiercely so that they grow up to be good and educated Palestinians. In that moment you get caught in a dilemma, who is more patriotic, whose method do you prefer aggression which kills or kindness and compassion which saves.
The film has all the elements of cinema with interesting characters set in true human emotional context. The film also manages to inform and keep to a timeline of events as they unfold in the nearly 6o year old conflict.
One may say the film remains one-sided, as it is a story about Palestinians. But very subtly the bias is balanced with the introduction of just one character. A Jewish girl who is dating Freida’s cousin. “How can you date her, she’s Jewish” she remarks to her cousin. “Because she loves me”, he replies. This jolts Freida and she gradually opens up to the girl’s overtures of friendship. The turning point comes perhaps when the gild plants a kiss on her lips to show her how her (Freida’s) cousin kisses ‘like and angel’.
The film closes with Freida more accepting , as she experiences two tragedies, that of her father dying and her boyfriend and fellow revolutionary, who had begun dreaming of an agreement with Israel ‘To settle down and bring up their kids” being branded a traitor and murdered. Her going away to Europe and having a safe life is perhaps a metaphor for all the conflicts of the world. Does any armed conflict ostensibly for human rights lead to that? Or do they ultimately violate.
The film is based on author Rula Jebreal’s novel, which is a strongly autobiographical account of her youth in West Bank. The screenplay of the film is written by her. More interestingly the Director Julian Schnabel is an American Jew.

Awards won by Miral at the Venice Film Festival in 2010: UNESCO Award and UNICEF Award. It was also nominated for the Golden Lion.

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