The latest film by Julian Schnabel, director of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Before Night Falls, and Basquiat, is the personal diary a young woman who lives in East Jerusalem, where she is constantly subjected to the consequences of occupation and war. Like his canvases composed of shards of glass, Schnabel gathers together the ephemeral fragments of Miral's world - her conception, the people who've left their mark on her life, and the difficult experiences during her early years - to paint a moving, poetic, and frank portrait of woman whose personal journey is inextricably linked with the history unfolding around her.
Miral's story, which moves in out and of different time frames and different emotional states, begins with the woman who will become her teacher: Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass, The Visitor, Amreeka) who, in 1948, created the Dar Al-Tifel Institute, an orphanage and school for Palestinian children, in her father's house. What would you do if you found 55 orphans wandering in the street when war is raging? For Hind, the response to this question was to protect the children and to take them into a refuge where no one could harm them, and where they could learn in complete security so as to imagine a more peaceful world.
In 1978, thirty years after the creation of Hind's school, a five-year-old girl arrives at the school after the tragic death of her mother. Her name is Miral (Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire): the film tells her story. She grows up within the institute's protective walls, but when she is 16 years old, when the first Intifada explodes, Miral is sent as a student teacher into the refugee camps. It is there that she begins to understand the anger and rebellion that drives the Palestinian people. When she falls in love with Hani (Omar Metwally, Munich), a political militant, Miral finds herself confronted by a wrenching dilemma: should she commit to the path of violence or dare to believe, with Mama Hind, that only education can lead to lasting peace.