Thursday the MPAA's ratings appeals board overturned Miral's R-rating for “some violent content including a sexual assault.” Weinstein Co. can now release Julian Schnabel's controversial Palestinian film on March 25 with a PG-13 rating for “thematic material, and some violent content including a sexual assault.” UPDATE: While the final cut filmmaker screened a cut that was 13-minutes shorter than the one that played the fall festival circuit (which drew mixed reviews), he did not make changes in the rape or cane-beating scenes that had earned the initial rating. Trims at the beginning and end of the film were designed to engage audiences with the characters, he told TOH. "I'm very pleased with the movie. Some battles you have to lose in order to win the war."
Schnabel and producer Jon Kilik both made appeals before the board, which is made up of industry members. The filmmakers argued that that young people around the world should be able to see the film about the violent Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "It is good news," says Schnabel. "I felt like they were restricting the movie from the very people I made it for. The movie is about education, understanding and peace, about people who think you are the enemy, but you aren't, you have more in common than differences."
The appeals board "recognized they were shocked by good filmmaking, good acting and not graphic sex or violence," says Kilik. "They felt the horror of the abuse, the assault, the torture but agreed that it wasn't done with 'R' rated images."
Adapted from her own autobiographical novel by journalist and peace advocate Rula Jebreal, the movie is about an Arab teenager, played by Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto, whose single stepfather (Omar Metwally, Munich) gives her to an East Jerusalem orphanage run by loving teacher Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass, The Visitor). Schnabel started a romantic relationship with Jebreal during their Mideast research on the movie, scouting locations and making contacts. "I became involved with her through the making of it," he says. "Doors opened. People felt not used. There's a lot of suspicion about a Jewish filmmaker making a movie about Palestine. I had to walk between the raindrops."
The Weinsteins recently won a PG-13 rating from the MPAA for a revised The King's Speech, after winning an R-rating for Blue Valentine, also on appeal.