A raw and affecting look at the conflicts and struggles between Palestine and Israel
Political films based on actual events are usually angry sentiments and have a strong point to make. This biographical drama is no different. Based on Rula Jebreal's novel, the emotionally charged production gives us an insight on the political unrest and instability happening on the other side of the world. Regard it educational if you will, this Julian Schnabel directed film will leave you wondering what it takes to live a life surrounded by the horrors of war.
The film chronicles Hind Husseini's effort to build an orphanage in Jerusalem after the 1948 Arab Israeli War. This began with her crossing paths with 55 orphaned children while on her way to work one day. She took them home and before she knew it, she had almost 2000 orphans under her care. The Dar Al-Tifel Institute was born, and thousands of orphaned children came under Husseini's care. Some 30 years later, Miral, a motherless child was sent to the orphanage by her father. Upon turning 17, she is sent to a refugee camp where she experiences the tension between Israel and Palestine, and the possible destructions it can bring to her own life.
Director Schnabel is known for his award winning works The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) and Before Night Falls (2000), and it comes as no surprise that the New York born filmmaker's latest project deals with such politically charged themes, despite the foreign lands the story takes place in. Through gritty cinematography (read: shaky camera work) and choppy editing (read: abrupt cuts and transitions), Schnabel shows us a world which we have only read about but never had the chance to experience. Sure, there may be no beautifully decorated sets with perfectly synchronized action sequences, but this is the slices of reality which the locals have to live with day after day.
It is also clear that the film presents a Palestinian perspective of things, and may appear one sided to viewers who are expecting this to be objective. Do note, however, that this is based on a memoir by Jebreal, and it is only natural that the war is seen through her eyes.
Amidst the violence and assaults, there is tenderness and compassion in the 112 minute film as Schnabel tells a story of remarkably strong women surviving in times of turmoil. Their intertwined tales may be unevenly told, but you'd feel a sense of passion and zeal as they go through life fighting for their beliefs and causes.
Playing the central character Husseini is Hiam Abbass (The Visitor, Munich), a Palestinian actress who injects the much needed fervour into her character. Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) plays the titular character, and viewers get to see how a girl who is initially brought up safely inside the orphanage's walls gradually grows into a young woman who is awakened by the reality around her and has to fight for her convictions. Appearing in supporting roles are familiar faces like Willem Dafoe (Daybreakers) and Vanessa Redgrave (Letters to Juliet) in the first few minutes of the film.
The film ends without any closure or resolution, which reflects the harsh realities happening on the other side of the planet we live in. And that, in our opinion, is the best way to leave us reflecting on the unnecessary pain and tragedies brought about by war.
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