Pic faced with charges of anti-Israel bias

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Faced with charges of anti-Israel bias, the Weinstein Co.’s East Jerusalem-set “Miral” bowed at a very public forum in Gotham: the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations.

Formal protests against the choice of venue were lodged by the American Jewish Committee, the Israeli Mission to the U.N. and other Jewish groups on Monday. prior to the screening.

In a letter to the president of the U.N. General Assembly Joseph Deiss, the AJC asked for the cancellation of the film’s premiere, saying it had a “clear political message, which portrays Israel in a highly negative light.” “Miral” producer Jon Kilik responded by inviting the org to Monday’s screening so they could “be part of the difficult but necessary conversation,” according to a statement.

Jean Victor Nkolo, spokesman for the prexy of the General Assembly, said he regretted the controversy but hoped the pic would spur discussion leading to greater understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. “This kind of work of art reminds us of the need to work harder,” Nkolo said of the Julian Schnabel-helmed pic.

Asked whether he thought the charges of anti-Semitism against the film had merit, Nkolo said, “Absolutely not,” citing Schnabel’s own heritage. The helmer’s mother is a former president of Jewish women’s org Hadassah. “I don’t think any accusation of anti-Semitism can be leveled against him or the president,” Nkolo said.

Despite formal protests, the opening was a fairly civil affair, with no activity beyond filmgoers milling around the nondescript entrance to the U.N. with nary a protester in sight. Press and viewers were escorted through tight security into an atrium outside the cavernous venue.

Schnabel himself was voluble on the film’s subject matter. “If (Israel and Palestine) don’t solve this problem, Israel won’t exist anymore, and I don’t want that to happen,” he said pajama-clad filmmaker on the red carpet. “The people who scream the loudest are not necessarily the most sane.”

Screenwriter Rula Jebreal, who adapted her own novel, told Variety, “The president (of the General Assembly) saw the film and said he thought that we should show it in a place where all nations are equal.”

“Miral” hit a speed bump earlier this year when the MPAA slapped the film with an R rating. The filmmakers appealed the ruling last week and won; rating is now PG-13.

“‘Miral’ tells a story about a young Palestinian woman, but that does not make it a polemic,” Harvey Weinstein said in a statement on Sunday.

Jebreal used her own life experiences to write the original source novel as well as the screenplay for “Miral.”

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