- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Artist-director Julian Schnabel today blasted critics of his controversial new film, “Miral,” hinting at a conspiracy underlying some of the movie’s poor reviews.

“I actually think that there’s a plan to undermine this thing because people wish that it would go away,” Mr. Schnabel said after being asked whether some of the harsh reviews of “Miral” were politically motivated. A politically charged film about three generations of Palestinian women, the story is adapted from a semiautobiographical novel by Rula Jebreal, who wrote the film’s screenplay.

“And people don’t want to get fired from their jobs,” said Mr. Schnabel, one-time enfant terrible of the New York art world and director of critically acclaimed films such as “Before Night Falls” (2000) and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007), which earned four Oscar nominations (including best director).

“There’s a woman that was fired from her place, Nina Rothe. She wrote a beautiful review of this movie,” explained Ms. Jebreal, the stunning Palestinian journalist with whom the divorced Mr. Schnabel now lives in New York.

According to the film review aggregation site “Rotten Tomatoes,” 80 percent of the reviews of “Miral” have been negative.

Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel dismissed critics of his new film, "Miral." "I actually think that there's a plan to undermine this thing," he said. (Associated Press)
Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel dismissed critics of his new film, “Miral.” “I ... more >

“I went to the Angelika theater the other day,” reported Mr. Schnabel, “and I said, ‘Why are you here? The reviews are terrible.’ And they said, ‘We don’t believe in the reviews. This movie is great.’ So I said, ‘(Expletive) the critics,’ and everybody went ‘Yeahhhh!’”

During the interview, a defiant Mr. Schnabel whipped out his iPhone and began scrolling through his email. “If you want a review, I’ll give you a review,” he said. “You ready for this? You ready for this?”

Mr. Schnabel then recited aloud a “review” sent to him by actor Josh Brolin: “In America, where new-age thinking reigns, why is it that when it truly comes down to it, when confronted with their own egos and the need to default to good and evil, black and white, we refuse to pull back and compassionately imagine what the enemy might be pining for?

“Isn’t this the way of thinking that truly wins wars? Isn’t this the way of thinking that helped avoid the Cuban Missile Crisis? Anger begets anger. Domestic disputes run out of control when both parties are unwilling to compromise. Murder continues when one party is steeped in fear and sees only through the tunnel of its own existence.

“‘Miral’ is an attempt to see within a war, where all participants are victims. It attempts to reveal how during our short lives, we create such bloody strife, and it presents through the telling of this true story how might we curtail our habituations and live amongst each other in relative peace.

“‘Miral’ is about the phenomenon of compassion, written by the very woman who received not only physical torture, but was emotionally forever affected by the horrors of war. This is her realization, that war is a vortex that feeds on itself. Our only escape from it is to look how it victimizes us all and to nonviolently put a stop to it.

“We are no longer primitive people. We can learn, we can work toward another instead of away. Watch the film, if only for a different perspective. This is not to take away from all the people who have been affected by the segregation and the tortures and deaths that war perpetuates. It’s an attempt to curtail these awful realities in the future. With due respect, Josh Brolin.”

“And he’s not the only person that can write intelligently about this movie, so I don’t need the critics,” Mr. Schnabel said, citing other supportive notes, from actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Johnny Depp, as well as directors Paul Haggis and Jonathan Demme.

“Miral” opens in selected cities Friday.