With ‘Miral,’ Harvey Weinstein jumps into the Israeli-Palestinian fray


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It almost seems so perfect, it’s a wonder it hadn’t happened already.
Provocative filmmaker Julian Schnabel, taking on a provocative subject, will again be working with industry provocateur Harvey Weinstein.

The Weinstein Co. announced this morning that it would domestically distribute “Miral,” Schnabel’s film about the founding of a Palestinian orphanage in 1948 and the evolution of a young Palestinian woman at the dawn of the first intifada. (Rula Jebreal adapted the screenplay from her own novel, which is partly inspired by true events.)


Schnabel had previously worked with the new Miramax, which released his “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” to Oscar acclaim in 2007, but goes back to his roots with this film: Harvey (in a very different time) released Schnabel’s directorial debut, “Basquiat,” in 1996.

With Freida Pinto as the lead, “Miral” examines the founding of the Dar Al-Tifel Institute orphanage for Palestinian refugees in 1948, and then flashes forward to Pinto’s character, who was raised in the orphanage, as a young woman in the early 1990s, when she goes to work in a refugee camp, where she is caught in a quandary between violent and peaceful means of resistance. It’s probably the most mainstream film project to take a Palestinian point of view on the genesis and modern aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“As a staunch supporter of Israel I thought this would be a movie I would have a hard time wrapping my head around,” Weinstein said in a statement. “However, meeting Rula moved me to open my heart and mind, and I hope we can do the same with audiences worldwide.”

Reports from Movieline and others have focused on the irony of Weinstein, an an “Israel loyalist,” picking up the film. The coverage is a little perplexing -- Harvey certainly isn’t known as a staunch pro-Palestinian advocate, but it’s not like he’s out there on the AIPAC front lines (he is, however, a heat-seeking missile when it comes to topical and buzz-worthy movies).
Still, Schnabel and Weinstein, both well-known as strong personalities, should have some interesting debates in the cutting room and at the marketing meetings. Given the stubbornness of their visions, there may be fireworks worthy of, well, a Middle Eastern conflict.

-- Steven Zeitchik

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