From Julian Schnabel; the director that brought such cinematic triumphs as Basquiat, Before Night Falls, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to screen. Here comes a film that, although technically flawed presents the Palestinian plight without a cohesive or bias view –to its credit.
The film begins with camerawork from Eric Gautier (Into The Wild, The Motorcycle Diaries) that seems much too frantic for setting such a sombre narrative. However, his hand–held shots are somewhat restrained and the perhaps flamboyant use of various colour–grading techniques is excellent, amidst interesting tracking shots and realtime movement.
Although the film centres around Hind Al-Husseini‘s school for orphaned refugee girls, it’s effort to track the lives of Hind, Hani, Fatima and Miral (each pronounced with titles) leaves one feeling as though Reel 2 was omitted; with the film consolidating proper upon Miral, and Hani to a lesser extent. Complementary to this view are the cameo–like appearances of Willem Dafoe‘s U.S. Army personnel, Eddie, whose under–developed and languishing character borders on irrelevance. Worth noting too is the brilliant Hiam Abbass (The Visitor) as Hind albeit looking almost comical when the character reappears in the film as an elderly woman. As with most of the film though, this criticism fast fades as the film begins to enthrall beyond the first 40 minutes or so.
Anchored with a great range of stock shots and the aforementioned cinematography techniques, the film runs parallel to a curious soundtrack including R.L. Burnside and Tom Waits but ultimately encapsulates an engaging perspective of the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict. Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) is absolutely amazing in holding this film as her own and plays Miral seductively in the coming-of-age, politically agressive role.