MVFF: Miral (D)

We got to see the US premiere of Miral, the true story of four Muslim women in Jerusalem from the creation of Israel in 1948 through recent times. In addition to their personal stories, there’s a strong political context of the argument for a fully integrated Israel versus a two-state “solution.” I fully expected Julian Schnabel’s Miral to be one of the hits of the Mill Valley Film Festival. But Wow, what a shocker! Instead, I’d say it was the worst of the ten films we’ve seen so far this year. So disappointing.

It’s a mess of a film. The the script is stilted and awkward. The dialogue is at once simplistic and heavy-handed. All of the performances sub-par, which suggests that the direction is to blame. Even the actors’ accents are awful. Some of the most important characters are nothing more than superficial. Schnabel did an amazing job with Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but as he admitted during the Q&A, he’s a painter, not a filmmaker. Perhaps part of the problem is that he’s way too close to the material. He’s a compassionate two-state-fan Jew. This film isn’t art for him. It’s more literal than that. His mother was the first president of Hadassah. He filmed many of the scenes in their actual locations in Jerusalem. I don’t think he had anyone on the team in a position to tell him it’s just not a good movie. Great story, okay. But it’s got to work as a film.

I probably don’t need to mention this after such a pan, but the production values were also weak. Schnabel kept switching in and out of visual styles such as a 1950 color-negative look, but there was no discernable thematic reason for doing so. Editing, music and sound were likewise poor. Need I say it? Skip this one even if it ends up getting huge sentimental popularity.

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