This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to see Miral at a local theater in Burlington. Jon Kilik (Babel, W, Malcolm X, Pleasantville), the producer of the film, was there to give a Q and A. Because Jon Kilik is a Jewish graduate from (Jew)UVM, he returns every couple years to premiere his latest movie. This movie happened to make the news for being ‘controversial’. All for the wrong reasons.
Miral is one of those political movies that tries way too hard to not be political. It tries to argue some higher moralistic values, while acting innocent and non-pretentious. And it fails miserably. Because everyone knows you can’t try too hard. Let people think whatever they want and go on living your own life. That’s the hipster motto. But Miral fails at convincing people that it is apolitical.
Miral is a high-production indie video diary of a Palestinian girl’s life. Based off of the autobiographic novel by Rula Jebreal, Miral follows three generations of Palestinian women to see how the situation in Israel has affected their lives. Yet with their uber-controversial advertising, you never would have guessed that.
Why would one use the word ‘terrorist’ if they were trying to not be political? It’s a good advertising ploy to create controversy, but makes the entire movie disingenuous.
And herein lies by problem with the entire movie: It feels phony. It feels contrived. It feels artsy in all the most boring ways. Even the main characters feel dull and uninspiring. You’ve got the oldschool ancient secular woman who runs an orphanage for Palestinian girls. You’ve got the 17 year old who falls in love with a Palestinian Freedom Fighter. But you don’t ever really get to know who these characters are, what they think, or how internally conflicted they may be. Which makes you not give a shit at all.
If you have seen the movie, you probably came to one of these conclusions about the movie’s themes:
1) Secular people are more rational than religious uncompromising nuts.
2) Palestinians got shafted
3) Israeli soldiers (mostly 18-24 years old) are all a bunch of assholes
4) ‘Terrorists’ are real people just trying to make their own sufferings clear to the wider world
5) Peace in the Middle East is what everyone wants
Any person who can deconstruct a movie can clearly understand these themes. Yet here is what Jon Kilik said his movie was about:
- Pro-education. The old woman with the orphanage should have taught the audience that education can be used for better understanding of humanism. Which you would possibly understand if the movie didn’t end inconclusively, with the main character’s future up in the air. But it’s not like education was a main focus of the movie.
- The movie is a diary looking into the experiences and viewpoint of ONE Palestinian girl. Yeah, you never would have guessed from the advertising that Jon Kilik didn’t write the script or have much input into it. He let Rula Jebreal rewrite her book into the script. And this fact was supposed to magically make it into the brains of the wider viewing audience.
- The movie tried to be humanistic, not political or controversial. If someone can explain this bullshit to me, I’ll give you a law degree from Harvard.
- The situation in the Middle East is very complicated. But Israel and Palestine must work together if they both want to survive. While I can agree with this, up until the last ten minutes of the movie this idea was never mentioned nor discussed even once.
With all this said, I give the movie 2 out of 5 Lebowskis. Disappointing and confusing at times, it is worth seeing so you can talk shit about it at your next Hipster party. But odds are I’ll end up defending this movie against someone who found it offensive and pro-Palestine (because that is obviously a bad thing?).