Miral is a little indie film that came out of Israel in the last six months to an explosion of controversy. Set over four generations of a Palestinian family and is based on a novel of the same name. The film focuses on the aftermath of the Deir Yassin Massacre when 55 surviving children of a massacred town were abandoned in Jerusalem. A Palestinian woman established an orphanage for them and their numbers swelled to over 2000 in a mere six months. The story of the film picks up with a newly orphaned girl dropped off. Coming of age stuff apparently ensues, to decidedly mixed reviews.
Of course, that’s not where the controversy comes from. The United Nations had a special screening of the film back in March over the protests of the American Jewish Committee, which declared that the film was one-sided and biased against Israel. I haven’t seen the film, and I really can’t comment on whether it is a nuanced look at historical scars or vicious anti-Israel propaganda. But I can say that I’d be surprised if a film featuring a massacre wasn’t one-sided, since that’s sort of the definition of a massacre. When there are a hundred dead civilians, there isn’t a counterpoint or alternate point of view.
But this would all be academic, just talking heads of one sort or another playing their scripted roles if not for the fact that the film about the fallout of bodies in the streets now has its first body in the street. Actor and filmmaker Juliano Mer-Khamis, who had only a small role in Miral, was a child of several worlds, born to a Jewish mother and an Arab Christian father. He served with the Israeli paratroopers and many years later founded a community theater in the infamous Jenin refugee camp. It was outside that theater where he was shot down by masked gunmen on Monday.
So it goes.