Nadine Labaki’s “Capharnaüm” Wins The Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Festival

What an accomplishment.

Nadine Labaki just became the first Lebanese director to win such a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s the festival’s third highest prize.

After receiving a 15 minute standing ovation after its screening on Thursday, the film immediately became a front runner, at the heel of what some are calling “the best baby performance in the history of cinema.”

Capharnaüm, with its Lebanese and international release dates to be determined, tells the story of Zain, a 12 year old Lebanese child, who sues his parents for bringing him into the life they’ve given him: that of squalor, poverty, abuse, child brides, and lack of papers.

The reviewer for The Guardian called the middle section of the movie so ambitious that he doesn’t even know how Nadine Labaki pulled it off, calling the movie a favorite for the Best Foreign Feature Oscar as well for next year’s awards. Deadline, on the other hand, called the movie an instant foreign language Oscar front runner, believing the movie should even go beyond that category, the way Amour did in 2013.

With this movie, it seems Nadine Labaki has upped her game from the already high bar she set with her previous two features, and at this point it seems the sky is her limit. I cannot wait to see what this ingenious Lebanese director, the best in her generation, has to keep offering.

If anything, I hope that with movies like Capharnaüm, Lebanese moviemakers realize the importance of telling the stories that Lebanese society entails. Those are the kind of movies we should be making, as we touch on the wounds that plague our communities in our attempt to heal them.

Furthermore, the movie even features an Ethiopian refugee named Yordanos Shifera who’s been living in Lebanon without proper documents. That same actress has now been given the chance to walk the red carpet of an award winning movie in which she had a vital role. That’s amazing.

There’s already a scene circulating online from the movie, which you can watch here:

This is reportedly the opening scene of the movie.

Congrats Nadine Labaki. You made all of us proud, and I hope you keep receiving the accolades for your new masterpiece.

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5 thoughts on “Nadine Labaki’s “Capharnaüm” Wins The Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Festival

  1. Such a small country trying to survive in such a Cancerous environment all around us, we have had over 40 years of civil wars and other wars too many to to mention and yet from the very little we have we managed to survive.
    Lebanese were and are and will always be an example to everyone else and we are showing that we swim with the killer shark and end up on top.

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  2. Just a slight clarification: the top prize (Palme d’or) went to Shoplifters by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Grand Prix (second best) to BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee, and Jury Prize to Capernaum.

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    • Adding to that that Nadine is not the first Lebanese to win the jury prize in Cannes. Maroun Baghdadi (whom no one seems to know, nowadays), was the first Lebanese director to win the jury prize in 1991 for his movie ‘Hors La Vie’, tying with Lars Von Trier for Europa.
      Still a huge accomplishment for Nadine, which Lebanese cinema can be proud of, but let’s not forget what one of the main figures of Lebanese cinema accomplished in his short career in the 80s and early 90s.

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  3. When journalists question Labaki about her “film”, she mentions the great political cause that drove her to make it. She speaks of the misery she witnessed, the poor street children whom she drove by one day, her lucky young actor who was granted a visa to Norway thanks to her impactful film, etc. But she carefully avoids talking about… her film. She’d much rather talk about everything around it, leaving aside any potential ideas regarding her actual cinema. Why? Because she doesn’t have a distinct cinematic voice, so she really doesn’t have anything interesting to say about her own film. And because, as Godard said, “cinema is a form that thinks and a thought that forms”, this complete lack of voice is obvious in her film, which is full of gimmicks, superfluous scenes, and an outrageous “cathartic happy end” worthy of a propaganda film: a (deplorable) government, a lawyer (shamelessly played by Labaki herself) and the media (known for their unprofessionalism) all contribute to rescue the hero, punish the bad guys and restore order and justice. (I say the Lebanese government is “deplorable” because it still practices torture, gender discrimination, racial discrimination, among a variety of other human rights violations). Formally, the film is shot with a Steadicam and the few drone shots are just there to highlight urban poverty. The fast-paced editing doesn’t leave the audience time to actually look at faces and find genuine expressions in them. Our eyes are never free to wander around the frame – viewers don’t even have time to think, because they’re being held hostage by this chaotic and tearjerking mise-en-scene which desperately begs for their empathy but quickly becomes irritating.

    Labaki invented a new genre: the cinema-mensonge. Canne’s Thierry Frémaux made her famous, probably for strategic reasons. But that’s his problem. Film critics and cinephiles are not blind, and they saw the film for what it is: a calculated exploitation of misery made by an uninspired and narcissistic filmmaker.

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