Filmmaker Julian Schnabel tells the story of Palestine

The filmmaker Julian Schnabel premiered his new movie about the Middle East conflict at the Venice Film Festival this week, telling audiences he felt a personal responsibility as a Jew to tell the story from a Palestinian perspective.

That makes Schnabel one of those rarefied artists with the courage to challenge established paradigms with his work.

The film, told through the eyes of two Palestinian women and based on the autobiographical book by Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal, spans 40 years in Israeli history, from the creation of the state in 1948 to the failed Oslo Accords in 1993.

According to The Guardian, Schnabel told a Venice audience: “Coming from my background, as an American Jewish person whose mother was president of Hadassah [the Women’s Zionist Organisation of America] in 1948, I figured I was a pretty good person to try to tell the story of the other side.”

“I felt it was my responsibility to confront this issue because, maybe, I’ve spent most of my life receding from my responsibility as a Jewish person,” he said. 

With the renewal of peace talks this week between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, Schnabel’s timing couldn’t be timelier. “One of the reasons why I made this film,” he told his audience, “is that it was so obvious to me that there are more similarities between these people than differences.”

Read more from The Guardian:

Miral tells the story of the Dar al-Tifl orphanage in Jerusalem, which was set up by a rich socialite called Hind Husseini in 1948 after she came across 55 orphans in the street. Within six months she had a school for 2,000 children.

The film shows how one of the orphans, Miral, is forced to grow up fast when she falls in love with a Palestinian activist. Miral is played by Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto, and while there have been eyebrows raised at the Indian actor’s casting as a Palestinian, Pinto bears an uncanny resemblance to Jebreal, on whom the character of Miral is based. Vanessa Redgrave and Willem Dafoe have small cameo roles.