Part of it might be the subject matter; the ever controversial Israeli- Palestinian conflict. When it played the festival circuit, it was controversial as everyone assumed Schnabel had some kind of agenda. Some thought Schnabel, as a Jewish-American, might be too soft on Israel, while others thought it might well turn into the opposite- a vicious attack at Israel and its supporters.
Neither statement is true, as MIRAL tries hard to present an unbiased, truthfull look at whatís happening in Israel, where the only sane solution is peace. At one point Miral wonders aloud why everyone canít just be on the same level, have the same rights, and embrace real democracy- comparing Israel to the U.S. If anything, MIRAL might be a bit of a naÔve film, as the PLO is presented in a somewhat favorable light (although not entirely), and hard-line Muslim extremists- the kind Israel fears, are nowhere to be seen here. Instead, the Palestinians are all moderates, unconcerned with religion (with Miralís Palestinian love interest, a PLO member, even having a statue of the Virgin Mary in his house), and rather only want to be free to live their lives.
Itís a big-hearted film, and I found it very hard to dislike MIRAL. Credit is due to Schnabel for embracing such a controversial subject, and he shoots it in a very dynamic way. In fact, Iíd wager that MIRAL is a phenomenal film to show to a younger audience in order to educate them on the conflict, with Miral being a character thatís very easy to identify with.
In the lead, Freida Pinto does an excellent job, although the fact that sheís of Indian descent, and not Arab makes her stick out a bit alongside the Arab actors. Nevertheless, sheís excellent, revealing depths of her talent you wouldnít get from RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, where sheís pretty much just eye-candy. Alexander Siddig (DS9!) is terrific as Miralís selfless, kindly father, and special note has to be made of Hiam Abbass (THE VISITOR) as the real-life Hind Husseini- a wealthy Palestinian who spent her entire family fortune of establishing a school/home for orphaned girls.
Next are a series of deleted scenes which I believe were cut from the film after it played TIFF, as it's been pared down by a good ten minutes or so. We also get a tour of Schnabel's studio where he shows recent paintings he made inspired by the film. There's also a lengthy Q & A with Schnabel that was filmed at the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, and a brief Making-of documentary, featuring sound bites from the cast and crew.