The first event I attended after arriving at the Hamptons Film Festival yesterday afternoon was a discussion performance by Miral director Julian Schnabel and moderator Alec Baldwin. It happened at Guild Hall in East Hampton, which is where the festival is pretty much centered.

Knowing that Venice Film Festival responses to Frieda Pinto‘s lead performance were a bit dicey, I asked Schnabel about his reasons for choosing Pinto. I made the mistake of saying I hadn’t yet seen the film (I caught it a couple of hours later) and that my question was “innocent.” Schnabel drawled back, “Nothing from you is innocent, Jeffrey. And I mean that.” Beat, beat. “Naah, I’m just fucking with you,” he added, and then went into his reasons.

A primary factor, he said, is that Pinto closely resembes Rula Jebreal, the Palestinian-born journalist who wrote the 2004 book and the screenplay.