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Freida Pinto stars in Miral, a Palestinian story 'they tried to stop'

Freida Pinto, the Indian actress of Slumdog Millionaire fame, plays a Palestinian teen in Miral, a movie its distributor says 'they tried to stop.'

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"Miral" also touches on the backgrounds of would-be terrorist Fatima (Ruba Blal) and Miral's mother, Nadia (Yasmine Al Massri), whose suicide compels Miral's father (Alexander Siddig) to leave her at the school. The film then fast-forwards to 1988 as Hind sends the teenaged Miral (Pinto) outside the orphanage's walls to teach at refugee camps.

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After the film was screened, Schnabel trimmed "Miral," and distributor Weinstein Co. delayed it from a December to March release, moving it out of this year's awards race. The biggest backlash came this month when Jewish groups, like the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, condemned the film's premiere at the United Nations General Assembly.

"On one hand, it's a pity, but on the other hand, it's very good for the film," said Schnabel. "It's too bad that somebody was stupid enough to say it shouldn't be shown when they haven't seen it. How do you say something shouldn't be shown without actually looking at it first? If you want to pick on something, at least know what you're picking on."

The Weinstein Co. has been promoting "Miral," which opens in limited release Friday, with a graphical print and online advertisement featuring a striking red-and-black image of Pinto, which Schnabel said he shot himself, accented with a barbed-wire Star of David surrounding her eye and a bold tagline declaring it's "the movie they tried to stop."

"I know a good line when I hear it," Harvey Weinstein said in an email when asked about the ad. "Seriously, though, it is true that attempts were made to halt the premiere at the U.N., and I did find that sad and troubling. Our ultimate goal is to get people to see 'Miral,' a movie we love and believe in, and one we think can promote valuable dialogue."

The Weinstein Co. has a long history of courting controversy with their films. The distributor battled the Motion Picture Association of America over the strict ratings of such movies as "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover," ''Blue Valentine" and "The King's Speech." Earlier this month, the ratings board switched the rating of "Miral" from R to PG-13.

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