After reading a magazine interview with the lovely Freida Pinto, who played Latika in Slumdog Millionaire, I was really excited to watch her new film Miral. I had high expectations, and thankfully, was not let down. WARNING: major plot spoilers.
Miral is directed by Julian Schnabel, who has also directed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (a must see if you haven't seen it!). Miral is based on a novel by Rula Jebreal and is an intricately woven tale of four different women, and their own individual plights.
The film begins with scenes of a Muslim burial, whereby two ladies are wrapping white sheets around the deceased and saying prayers. The coffin in the car driving along the streets is shown, people throw flowers at the Funeral car. The body is of Hind Husseini and although Miral was born years later, she believes her story begins with Hind. The film goes back to narrate Hind's life, and why she was important. She was an affluent Palestinian, who was in an American Jewish hotel, attending a Christmas Party. She leaves the party and walks home, to find scores of abandoned Palestinian children blocking her way. She asks them why they are sat there. In turn, they begin to explain how, late at night, Israeli Soldiers bombarded their houses, began killing their relatives; there were bullets and blood everywhere. They were all frightened and had no idea where their siblings were. Hind quickly realised these children could not be allowed to sleep on the street at night, and she ordered them to follow her. She took them all to her Mother's house, and fed them. She thought they would only stay for a while, but it was evident the children had nowhere to go. Eventually she turned the house into what she named "The Children's home" (Dar Al-Tifel Institute) ; a kind of boarding school for abandoned Palestinian Children. At one point, she had up to 900 children, and funded the whole school herself, with little government support.
Nadia is a Palestinian woman, possibly a servant, who is being abused (raped). One day, she decides she's had enough, and escapes with little to her name. Her only means of survival is to become a belly dancer at a bar. An incident occurs when she is on a bus, and a woman called her an Arab Whore, because she knows she's a dancer. She headbutted the woman in the nose, out of anger, and was sent to a Women's jail for around 30 days. It was in jail that she met
Who is Nadia's cell-mate. Upon arrival at the prison, Nadia throws up, due to morning sickness, and Fatima reassures her that it gets better, after all, she was a Nurse. When the conflict started, Nadia's boss at the hospital explained that they should treat all the Palestinian Civillians that were wounded, but once they were treated, they were to be handed over to the Authorities, as they were prisoners of war. Fatima felt sorry for the Palestinian patients, and helped lots of them to escape from the hospital. She was caught and fired from her job. But that's not how she was sent to prison. Upon being fired, she became involved with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), who decided to resort to acts of violence in order to be heard, as they felt they had no other option. They ordered a bomb from Lebanon, which took weeks to arrive. She went to the cinema to watch a Roman Polanski film, sat down, left her bag there and left. She was caught even though the bomb did not go off. She was sentenced to two life sentences (but another was added as she refused to stand up in the court room). She did not regard herself as a terrorist. Nadia did not understand how she could attempt to kill people she did not know. Fatima urges her family to take care of Nadia, and does not want Nadia to return to her old lifestyle.
Nadia is due for release soon and is pregnant, so Fatima's brother Jamal Shaheen, marries Nadia. Jamal is a devout Muslim, an Imam at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem. Nadia's baby is named Miral Shaheen. Years later into their marriage, Nadia feels "dirty", due to her past, and believes Jamal does not deserve her. She walks through the sea in order to become "clean", and ends up drowing and dying. It's not evident whether or not she planned to kill herself, but it's a very sad time for Miral and her Father.
Jamal realises he cannot look after Miral properly, and sends her to Hind's "Children's Home." He used to take lots of refugee children to Hind's school, and never fathomed he'd had to send his own child there. He has an agreement to take Miral home every weekend and spend time with her. Hind reminds Miral she's very lucky to have two homes, as all the other children only have one (i.e. the school). When Miral is arond 14/15, Hind announces that there are too many children at the nearby refugee camp, and she wishes for them to be educated. The girls (including Miral) will go to teach the children every so often.
Whilst they are teaching, the Israeli Military Tanks arrive and circle round a nearby house. They announce that the occupants have ten minutes to leave, as they are going to demolish and destroy the house. The Father of the house came out and tried to protest and argue to no avail. The family, the refugee children and the girls watch as the house is demolished, slowly and painfully by a digger. It was absolutely heart-wrenching to watch the scene as the house was destroyed as the family were in tears, as when you think about it, your house is your livelihood; your belongings, your memories etc. It made me thankful that I have a house and am not living in constant fear that it may be destroyed at any second.
Miral was angered and felt she had to help the family; where would they sleep? Hind understood her anger but reminded her she had to control her emotions and that this war had begun long ago. Miral wanted to attend a peace protest but Hind warned against it. They went anyway, and her best friend was injured and eventually died. Miral became involved with the PLO/Intifada movement. She was once carrying some PLO plans with her, which led her to being arrested and tortured. She was quickly released, and her Father was ordered to pay a sum of money. Her Aunt took care of her for a while, and she lived with her cousin who had a Jewish girlfriend. His girlfriend described how her family frowned upon her having a Palestinian Muslim boyfriend, as her family believed all Palestinians were terrorists. Her Father became very ill so she returned home to nurse him. Her Father eventually died.
Hind advised Miral to travel to Italy to create her future, and develop her career in journalism. In 1994, the Oslo agreement was signed, in which Israel agreed to give back 22% of the land, and a separation was created. Hind never thought she would see such an agreement in her lifetime. The film ends with the continuation of Hind's funeral.
The film back to the roots and causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and provides a real thought-provoking insight into what it was like for the civillians on both sides, and how they dealt with the war and the separation. The film has been directed and produced well, with interesting camera angles, as if it was shot from the character's eyes. It was also good to see a film about Palestine; it was full of culture, the hard-hitting bitter truth, and was not sugar-coated. The other good thing about the film was that they showed original footage, war scenes and political speeches etc. The acting was very good and authentic, Freida was fantastic.
The film was quite long, but also very worth it. Is a must-see, really changes your perspective on life, and the ongoing Palestine-Israeli conflict, so if you can, please go and see it! I really want to read the book now! To this date, Hind's school is still there.
Doesn't Freida look awesome in hijab btw?: