Palestine seen through a Jewish lens at festival

US FILMMAKER Julian Schnabel, a New York Jew, tells it like it is from the Palestinian point of view in Miral – as screening at the Venice film festival got into full swing yesterday.

Based on an autobiographical novel of the same name by Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal, the French-Israeli-Italian-Indian production traces the more than four decades from the creation of Israel until the Oslo peace accords of 1993.

Like Jebreal, Miral grew up in an orphanage in East Jerusalem set up by a Jerusalem socialite from a wealthy Palestinian family who one day in 1948 came across a group of children who escaped the massacre of Deir Yassin, a nearby village, committed by radical Jewish militants.

“I feel a great responsibility to the subject,” said Schnabel, whose The Diving Bell and the Butterfly won the award for best director at Cannes in 2007, as well as several Oscar nominations.

Jebreal said she wrote the book out of her “great love for the teacher who put me on the right path,” adding: “It’s the story of a big land and a little girl who survived simply because she had someone to help her.”

Speaking to AFP earlier, Schnabel, 58, said of the film, one of 24 competing for the prestigious top prize here, the Golden Lion: “Obviously it’s a Palestinian story, but it’s very important that an American Jewish person tell a Palestinian story.”

The filmmaker and neo-expressionist artist recruited Indian actress Freida Pinto, who played Latika in Slumdog Millionaire, for the role of Miral and Hiam Abass of Israel (“The Syrian Bride”) for the elegant orphanage director Hind Husseini.

Also yesterday, Robert Rodriguez hacked his way onto the Lido’s silver screen with Machete, a provocative action film mixing blood, humour and immigration issues.

In it, a hitman with a gift for slashing his targets, Machete (Danny Trejo), takes on corrupt officials on both sides of the US border.

Trejo shares top billing for the first time along with Robert de Niro, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson and Lindsay Lohan.

The world’s oldest film festival today will feature Oscar-winning US director Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, a dramatic comedy, while Antony Cordier of France unspools his drama Happy Few.

Wednesday’s opener was an American film for the first time in years, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan starring Natalie Portman about the cruel world of professional ballet.


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