Nadine Labaki’s New Movie “Capharnaüm” Is Part Of The 2018 Cannes Festival Official Selection, First Lebanese Movie Since 1991

After Georges Nasser’s films “Ila Ayn” 1957, “Le Petit Étranger” 1962, and Maroun Baghdadi’s “Hors La Vie” 1991, Nadine Labaki’s latest “Capharnaüm” is chosen to be in the official competition at the 2018 Cannes Festival.

While the movie does not have a trailer yet, and neither do we have an official synopsis of what it is about, this is such an honor to bestow on this phenomenal Lebanese director whose previous two films were also critically acclaimed, with Where Do We Go Now winning the top prize at the Toronto Film Festival and being nominated for a Critics Choice Award in 2009.

Being part of the Official Selection at Cannes means that Capharnaüm  is in the running for the show’s top prize – the Palme D’Or – for best movie. Nadine’s previous movies were selected for a different, less prestigious subset, the “Un Certain Regard” selection.

Other movies that were selected along with Capharnaüm are:

  • Le Livre D’Image, dir: Jean-Luc Godard
  • Blackkklansman, dir: Spike Lee
  • Three Faces, dir: Jafar Panahi
  • Cold War, dir: Pawel Pawlikowski
  • Leto, dir: Kirill Serebrennikov
  • Lazzaro Felice, dir: Alice Rohrwacher
  • Under The Silver Lake, dir: David Robert Mitchell
  • Capernaum, dir: Nadine Labaki
  • At War, dir: Stephane Brizé
  • Asako I&II, dir: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  • Sorry Angel, dir: Christophe Honoré
  • Dogman, dir: Matteo Garrone
  • Girls Of The Sun, dir: Eva Husson
  • Yomeddine, dir: A.B Shawky
  • Burning, dir: Lee-Chang Dong
  • Shoplifters, dir: Kore-Eda Hirokazu
  • Ash Is Purest White, dir: Jia Zhang-Ke

The fact that Nadine Labaki is in the running against a legend such as Jean-Luc Goddard is an honor in itself.

I personally can’t wait to see Capernaum, and hope it’s as phenomenal as the honors it’s being bestowed indicate.

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Lebanese Ely Dagher’s Waves ’98 Wins Best Short Movie Award At Cannes 2015

Ely Makhoul Cannes 2015 Waves '98

About four weeks ago, I wrote about a very promising short movie by Lebanese director Ely Dagher which was nominated for Best Short Movie at this year’s Cannes Festival (link).

The short film is an attempt by Ely Dagher to come to terms with living and growing up in Beirut, while working out of Belgium: the movie is about his adolescence years as a Lebanese lost in his own capital.  As I said before, the trailer made it seem extremely promising: it was unlike any Lebanese movie or short film I had seen before, and I had high hopes.

Well, Cannes agrees with me.

Ely Dagher Waves '98 Cannes Win

Ely Dagher just became the first Lebanese to win a major award at Cannes. By having his movie win, Ely Dagher beat out seven other nominees from seven other countries that probably cared less about their production than the Lebanese government ever did.

By being nominated in the first place, Ely Dagher beat out 4550 other short films that were submitted from all across the world. And today, I feel proud and I suppose so should you.

Let Ely Dagher’s win be a testament to Lebanese talents everywhere who can make it big, like he did, when given the chance, the funds, the backing, when they are allowed to pursue their vision beyond the confines of a Lebanese society that is so comfortable in what it knows that it never ventures out of its comfort zone, a society that squashes its own arts as forever cliches and doesn’t let its own artists truly express what they can do in fear of not being commercial enough.

I congratulate Ely Dagher for winning. Here’s hoping Waves ’98 makes it big at next year’s Oscars as well. Hopefully it’ll become the first Lebanese production to win that golden statuette as well.

 

Amour [2012] – Review

Amour 2012 Movie Poster

In an old Parisian apartment, with its yellowing books, rusty sinks and creaky tables, Georges and his wife Anne, two eighty year old former music teachers live. They go about their lives normally, attending concerts of former students, going through family albums that remind them of their younger days and caring for each other after all the time they’ve spent together. “C’est belle, la vie,” Anne says.

One day, as they’re having breakfast, Anne stops responding to Georges’ talk. He looks into his wife’s eyes and sees nothing there – she remains transfixed, unresponsive, a shell of the woman she was a few minutes earlier. He damps up a towel with water and tries to wipe her face but to no avail. As Georges gathers his things to call an ambulance, his wife comes back – but Anne has had a stroke. A carotid-stent operation going wrong later, Anne needs Georges to take care of her all the time, which he’s more than willing to do. A second stroke leaves her with right side hemiparesis, her right hand curled up in a fist. But Georges keeps taking care of his wife. He brings her a nurse three days a week, tries to sing with her “Sur Le Pont D’Avignon” when she can’t speak anymore, tries to get her to drink water when, in the rare lucid moments she gets later on, the only thing she makes him know she wants is to die.

Boasting beyond brilliant performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as Georges and Anne respectively, Amour is a heartbreaking, stunning and chilling portrayal of life in old age. Georges, the husband giving his all to care his dying wife, reaches a point where he knows what he’s doing is not enough but he keeps going anyway. The husband’s resiliency facing his wife’s forced surrender is a contrast that transcends the confines of the previously described Parisian apartment they both live in, which is the movie’s only setting though never feeling claustrophobic. The clash between the wife who wants to die and the husband who wants nothing but for her to live boasts an intense aspect of humanity that many movies fail to grasp even if they tried to. The nuances in the actors’ performances are striking. The way they look at each other through their wire-rimmed glasses, the adoration that radiates off Anne’s cheeks towards her husband… those are things you come across very rarely and you can’t but appreciate them when you do.

One of the main reasons Amour is this brilliant is Michael Haneke, the Austrian director, who has also written this great screenplay of life, love and death. The visual style he gives the movie is masterful. The pace he sets is poignant, never faltering. The movie he made draws you in, grasps and doesn’t let go. His style is shocking at time such as in Georges’ last act of love towards his wife, a stunning scene that will leave you haunted.

At a certain point in Amour, Georges tries to give Anne water, and she lets it roll angrily down her chin with a look of violent denial of life. Georges unwillingly slaps her, then apologizes like the exasperated caregiver he had become. Later on, he tells her stories of a time when he went to camp he didn’t like. He had agreed with his mother to write her daily. If he had liked his day, he’d draw flowers. If not, he’d draw stars. Amour shows us that life is a mix of flowers and stars. The love this old couple has to each other is the true embodiment of in sickness and in health. Amour is so intimate that watching it feels like you’re prying on these people’s private lives. It is so heartfelt that you can’t but feel touched by what you see. Amour shows you love. And it shows it spectacularly.

10/10

Where Do We Go Now? – New Nadine Labaki Lebanese Movie

Brilliant Lebanese director/actress Nadine Labaki is set to debut her new movie, Where Do We Go Now? (و هلّأ لوين؟) at Cannes this week. And it is starting off to good reviews.

After the 2007 hit Caramel, Labaki returns with another movie she’s directing. Set in a religiously mixed village, the movie is about a group of people trying to preserve their town in the midst of inter-religious tension. The town’s location is never mentioned, probably wanting to make the movie apply to anywhere in the Middle East where you have diversity.

Labaki has said about the movie, “It’s not a story about war; on the contrary, it’s about how to avoid war. You can’t live in Lebanon without feeling this threat, which ends up coloring what we do and our ways of expression.”

I think the topic looks like a typical Lebanese storyline, sort of like Caramel, which should make the movie quite relatable. And after all, Nadine Labaki is a very good director so I believe she will pull it off. Will this be as big as Caramel, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Check out a scene from the movie:

Check out my review of Where Do We Go Now.