Director Julian Schnabel has been forced to defend his new movie "Miral" after bosses at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) accused him of portraying the state of Israel in a "highly negative light".
The film stars Freida Pinto as a conflicted Palestinian girl growing up in Israel in a story based on the life of Schnabel's Palestinian girlfriend, Rula Jebreal, and adapted from her 2004 novel of the same name.
The moviemaker scheduled a screening of the film at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City on Monday, March 14, but the move prompted AJC executive director David Harris to write a letter of complaint, according to Deadline Online.
"The film has a clear political message, which portrays Israel in a highly negative light," Harris writes in the note, addressed to UN General Assembly president Joseph Deiss. "Permit me to ask why the President of the General Assembly would wish to associate himself, and the prestige of his office, with such a blatantly one-sided event..."
"We voice the earnest hope, even at this late date, that you will reconsider your decision about the film. Otherwise, you will only serve to reinforce the already widespread view that Israel simply cannot expect fair treatment in the UN."
Schnabel has now responded to the complaint, releasing a statement in defense of the film and its portrayal of Israel. He says, "I love the State of Israel. I believe in it, and my film is about preserving it, not hurting it."
"Understanding is part of the Jewish way and Jewish people are supposed to be good listeners. But, if we don't listen to the other side, we can never have peace. Instead of saying 'no,' I ask the AJC to say, 'yes,' see 'Miral' and join the discussion."
"Miral is a story about human beings, Palestinian, Israeli, Muslim, Jewish and Christian, and it explores how we all react differently to the violence around us, whether physical, emotional, political or otherwise," Jebreal adds. "It is a film about love, education, understanding and peace. That seems like a good thing to show at the United Nations."