What “Miral” does for the Palestinian cause

Last night in Sydney at the Palestinian Film Festival I saw an amazing new film by Jewish film-maker Julian Schnabel, Miral.

This is a deeply moving tale about the Palestinian experience, from the 1948 Nakba to the Deir Yassin massacre, the 1967 war and the first intifada. Is it this generation’s Exodus, asks Mondoweiss?

Its significance is telling the Palestinian story to a Western audience, in a compelling and revealing way. Schnabel says that after a test-screening in New York, most people said they’d never seen the Middle East told from the “other side”:

To document Palestine and its history, the pain and joys, resistance and occupation, is never told in mainstream cinema. Indeed, the release of this film, by a leading independent film-maker, reflects the growing global awareness of the issue. Here’s Schnabel:

Before I made this film, I hardly knew anything about Palestinians. But I’ve been following the story of Israel my whole life. As a child, I remember watching Exodus at Manhattan’s Rivoli Theatre with my parents. Everybody stood up when they sang Hatikvah and put their hands on their chests. My mother and father were very proud. I recently learned from my sister Andrea that my mother was President of Hadassah in Brooklyn . . . in 1948, the year of Israel’s birth. Making this film in Jerusalem allowed me to see this world for the first time, and to work with a landscape that I needed to see.

I was in tears by the end of the film. I felt profound anger that my people, the Jews, were inflicting such cruelty and pain on the Palestinians. But Miral is a lyrical and playful film that doesn’t glamorise or romanticise the Palestinians but merely shows their stories and struggles on the big screen. There’s no hiding that for many Palestinians Israelis are creeps, brutes, soldiers and occupiers. “Balance” is a false aim when one people are under occupation.