‘Miral’ U.N. Premiere Causes Controversy

Julian Schnabel’s latest film Miral may not be getting great reviews, but it is getting attention — especially following its Monday night premiere at the U.N.

Based on the semi-autobiographical book by (Schnabel’s girlfriend) Rula Jebreal, Miral tells the story of a Palestinian girl growing up in a Jerusalem orphanage in the decades following Israel’s independence. Starring Freida Pinto, this is Schnabel’s first movie since the Oscar-nominated The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in 2007.

In addition to its reviews, the film drew protests from groups including the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, and the American Jewish Federation when Monday’s red-carpet premiere was held in the main hall of the United Nations General Assembly — an inappropriate venue for what AJC called a “highly politicized, one-sided film” in which Israel’s concerns are blithely dismissed.

The groups urged General Assembly President Joseph Deiss to reconsider sponsoring the event; Israel’s U.N. rep Haim Waxman wrote that if nothing else, the U.N. “deals with the conflict excessively and obsessively” already.

To no avail. Schnabel, who described his film as “a cry for peace” said the venue couldn’t be better. “They’ve been involved with the birth of the state of Israel and have been trying to solve this conflict for so many years that it seemed like the perfect platform.”

Schnabel and distributor TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein — American Jews who point out that their mothers were active in the Zionist organization Hadassah — said Miral is meant to encourage dialogue.

Among other things, the film has also encouraged an “open letter to Harvey Weinstein” by Family Security Matters columnist Daniel Greenfield, posts on anti-Israeli occupation sites, and email campaigns calling for boycotts.

Miral opens in U.S. theaters on March 25.