Why Nadine Labaki is the Lebanese director you should know about

Why Nadine Labaki is the Lebanese director you should know about


Text: Rachel Chan

Image: Getty Images

In the running for Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or award this year, this actress-turned-director has made a name for herself with just three films she’s directed

1. She's one of the three female directors vying for the prestigious Palme d'Or
In 2005, Labaki took part in the Cannes Film Festival Residence and wrote her acclaimed debut film Caramel. Premiering at Directors' Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival 2007, it's no surprise that she would be contending for the festival's grand prize one day. She will be competing alongside directors Eva Husson and Alice Rohrwacher amid the media drama surrounding the number of female directors being selected. Her third film, Capernaum, centres on a 12-year-old boy who's being neglected and living in a fictitious Middle Eastern village, where he decided to sue his parents for bringing him into a world filled with suffering.

2. Capernaum is already gaining traction in the film industry
Even before the film's screening, the 44-year-old signed with the Creative Arts Agency and sold the North American and Latin American rights to Sony Pictures Classics, reportedly for $1.3m. "Nadine Labaki is one of the world's great filmmakers. Capernaum is an emotionally profound experience about the world we live in and promises to be a triumph in Cannes," stated a representative from Sony Pictures Classics.

3. Her list of accolades are pretty impressive
With only three films under her belt, she has bagged almost every award imaginable. Caramel earned her the Youth Award, TCM Audience Award and Sebastiane Award in the San Sebastián Film Festival 2007. Her second feature, Where Do We Go Now?, was selected as part of Cannes 2011's Un Certain Regard category and received its François Chalais Prize. It also won the People's Choice Award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. The list doesn't end there, as Labaki was also a candidate in Beirut Madinati, a new political movement for Beirut's 2016 elections.

4. Shining a light on issues faced in Lebanon is her specialty
Another reason why Labaki is so loved for her films is probably the way she works around the topic of violence and war associated with Beirut and injects a bit of comedy into it. Instead of focusing on the war in Caramel, she wanted to show a different and warmer side to Lebanon by writing about five Lebanese women in a hair salon, confiding in each other about their personal problems. When it came to Where Do We Go Now?, Labaki wrote about a group of women from a small village with Christians and Muslims living in harmony, trying to stop their men from starting another war with hashish pastries and burlesque dancers. "The way we tend to laugh about our misery is something that I'm used to because in Lebanon, or in this part of the world, life is a continuous drama. I was born with the war and there is still war and we have still not succeeded in finding peace," said Labaki in an interview.

5. She strongly believes in what she does
"This is a difficult job because there's no film industry in Lebanon or the region, and there's no mentoring or people we can learn from. In addition, it's very hard to get financing and not much help is available. So when people find that a movie has proved to be successful, then they are more confident and more encouraged to pursue their own dreams in filmmaking," she said in an interview. Labaki also wanted to everyone to understand that even though she's a woman, it doesn't make the job of a director any easier. “For me, I’m proud to be able to express myself through cinema, and I’m proud to be able to express my views as a woman.”

For last week's #WomanCrushWednesday, click here.

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