Freida Pinto Returns to Big Screen in Controversial Film by Julian Schnabel, Weinstein Co
By: Team Buzzine
March 20, 2011
Briefly introduced to the world in Slumdog Millionaire
and barely catching anyone’s attention in Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
, Freida Pinto gets her first major opportunity to prove her acting chops in the upcoming controversial release of Julian Schnabel’s Miral
. In portraying the lead as the title character in a film characterized as “anti-Israeli” by some, many have been anxiously awaiting Ms. Pinto to shed herself of those “eye-candy” monikers and prove she can do more than just be a pretty face in an Academy Award-winning or Woody Allen-directed film.
A biographical political thriller based upon Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal’s autobiographical novel of the same name, Miral actually debuted at the 2010 Venice Film Festival last September, and also stars Hiam Abbass, Willem Dafoe (Spiderman), and Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave (Mission Impossible, Blow Up).
In Miral, in which Ms. Pinto is put to the thespian test, audiences are told an emotional tale of a young orphaned Palestinian girl growing up in East Jerusalem, herself confronted by the effects of the occupation and the Arab-Israeli war in every corner of her life. Ironically, the film’s release coincides with a significant up-tick of political unrest and upheaval in the Middle East region, what with the escalation of armed conflicts in Libya and mass demonstrations in Egypt and Syria.
Accordingly, there are some who maintain that Miral’s release this week is a timely one as, despite its controversial overtones, the film is ultimately about the progression of peace in Israel and throughout the Middle East.
Screening at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on March 14th, the film’s producer, Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company, attempted to quell protests from the nation-state of Israel, as well as several Jewish activist groups who attempted to block the screening. Specifically, Mr. Weinstein poignantly told The Hollywood Reporter that the controversial film is not anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish but instead “a pathway to peace and a beautiful coming-of-age story.”
“The people who don't want you to see the movie for political reasons are crazy or wrong,“ Mr. Weinstein said. “I think the idea is: let there be peace.”
Nonetheless, Miral is as much about all the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an in-depth and emotional portrait of the women who must not only survive it but who will end up defining it.
With Schnabel--a Jewish American filmmaker and artist--helming Miral, the Weinstein Company production relies upon the deeply personal story of the film’s title character to call upon Palestinians and Israelis to make a push for equality and cooperation while also hammering home the overall theme of peace.
“I’m hoping that this film could, in its own small way, begin a much needed national (U.S.) conversation about this highly controversial issue,” declared Schnabel at the UN General Assembly screening.
Some of that conversation is apparently being promulgated by a few prominent Jewish organizations, such as J-Street and Jewish Voices for Peace, who have extended support for Miral in response to the opposition of other Israeli and Jewish groups and entities.
Ms. Pinto herself portrays Miral
, a young Palestinian woman who becomes politically conscious and joins a non-violent uprising to achieve freedom for herself and her people. Through Miral’s story, the struggle of the Palestinian youth of the character’s generation has a voice, and it is up to Ms. Pinto to help deliver that message. Just the same, Miral
actually tells the personal story of three generations of Palestinian women who were predecessors to the women revolutionaries who have captured the world’s imagination on the streets of Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya.
American audiences will have a chance, later this week, to judge for themselves whether Ms. Pinto is up to the task and, ultimately, on the right track to be a legitimate force in Hollywood and not be just another pretty face.
Here in the United States, Miral will open on March 25th in New York and Los Angeles. The film will be screening at The Lincoln Plaza and The Angelika in New York City with Ms. Schnabel and Ms. Jebreal available for question-and-answer sessions for the opening weekend.
In Los Angeles, the film will play at The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood, with possible Q&A planned for April 1st or 2nd.