Director Julian Schnabel, a New York Jew whose mother shuttled refugees from concentration camps into the United States, might seem an odd choice to film the autobiographical novel of Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian journalist. Ironically, however, his vocation allowed him to see what he called the small, human stories that made up the landscape of history. When Schnabel read Jebreal's book, Miral, he was struck by the similarities of character between his mother and Hind Husseini, the woman who finds dozens of orphans in the street (in the wake of a bombing) and, without flinching, takes them all home with her, opening the orphanage where the eponymous heroine would be raised.
In Schnabel's film adaptation, the bulk of the plot follows Miral as she grows up, trying to balance the caution of Hind and her father, who have learned that not making waves is the key to survival in a totalitarian state, and her revolutionary friends who dream of establishing a Palestinian state. Whether Miral herself or the film comes down on one side or the other of the debate on how to effect change is open to question, though the film's thesis appears to come when her boyfriend argues with her that they must agree to accept twenty-two percent of the land to form their own state. "Two states, one state, I don't care," he says, "I want to live my life." Schnabel told audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival that in his view "civil society" in the region is "held hostage" by "fanatics on both sides."
This sort of "pox on both your houses" approach may alienate those who want the film to illustrate the validity of their own, less compromising, positions, but Schnabel made it clear that his goal in making the film was to try to adopt Miral's ...1