Julian Schnabel defends U.N. screening of "Miral"

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 2:04 PM

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Filmmaker Julian Schnabel on Wednesday defended a screening of his new film "Miral" at the United Nations which drew the ire of Israel and several U.S. Jewish groups who see it as having a pro-Palestinian message.

The movie, which screened at the U.N.'s General Assembly Hall on Monday, stars Freida Pinto as a Palestinian girl growing up in East Jerusalem and dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Schnabel called the U.N. premiere of "Miral," which debuts in U.S. theaters next week, a "peace-making mission."

"For whatever Jewish group opposed that, or tried to cancel that, there are other Jewish groups that opposed that Jewish group. That said, it was a great thing to have happen," he said.

But others thought differently. Israel's mission to the U.N. issued a statement calling the screening "a politicized decision of the U.N., one that shows poor judgment and a lack of even-handedness."

U.S. Jewish groups including The American Jewish Committee and The Anti-Defamation League also objected with the Anti-Defamation League saying on its website that the film "lacks any context for some of the acts attributed to Israel."

Schnabel, 59, an American-Jewish film director and painter, said his intention with "Miral" is "to open a dialogue and make people more empathetic to people you would think are supposed to be your enemies."

He said the film doesn't represent all people involved in the conflict, but rather tells the real-life story of several generations of women, including Hind Husseini, who in the late 1940s set up a school to give Arab children orphaned by the conflict a better future.

"We are not showing all Palestinians like they are saints or all Israelis like they are not," he said.

The film is adapted from the semi-autobiographical novel of Italian-Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal, who is now Schnabel's girlfriend. It also features the director's daughter among a cast that includes Willem Dafoe and Vanessa Redgrave.

Schabel called said that an American-Jewish filmmaker telling a story about Palestinians was unprecedented.

"It certainly hasn't been done before by a American-Jewish director, making a film that would go into the mainstream audience," he said.

(editing by Bob Tourtellotte)