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Nadine Labaki Talks Capharnaum In Cannes

We met Nadine a day before she won the jury prize for her film Capharnaum, which was the first Lebanese film to be part of the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival since 1991.

Capharnaum follows the story of 12 year-old Zain who is seeking to sue his parents for giving him life. Besides his poverty, lack of parental love and obligation to work since a very young age, Zain faces the problem of being illegal. A common factor he shares with the heroin, an Ethiopian immigrant Rahil, whom he meets once he decides to flee his home.

Labaki, is not a newcomer to the iconic festival since both of her films Caramel (2007) and Where Do We Go Now (2011) were selected in the Quinzaine des réalisateurs and Un Certain Regard categories respectively.

We tried to steal a couple of questions from the actress/director between a dozen of international and Arab media queuing for a chance to talk with her.

AM: Nadine, can you tell us how important is the Cannes Film Festival for you?
I first came to Cannes as a cinéphile, and it was not as easy to access all the films when you are not part of the industry. This festival has always made me dream big, and I would have never believed that my films would be part of it one day. It is still surreal.

AM: The theme of Capharnaum is about children’s injustice and immigration. Tell us more about it
I am quite scared because Cannes could get judgmental, but I do have confidence in this topic. I have spent the past 4 years of my life doing research to approach the truth. I went to all the centers and prisons of minors and the tribunes to understand how the system works, and why can’t we find a solution for these children.

It’s not just about immigrant children or about the economic and cultural background of these individuals but rather a global debate. Children are always seeking love but many haven’t received any. You have to know that the first 6 years of a child’s life are the most important for his/her psychological development, and there is a massive difference between children who have been loved and those who haven’t. These kids end up unhappy to be alive and even wonder why they were born.

AM: You are also a producer of the film, how was the process like?
We started with no producers and had to learn about the métier from A to Z so we could attract the right investors. It was an organic process, created by a team or a family of passionate members. I am blessed to have a loving entourage and without them this project could have never seen the light. 

AM: You always like to cast non-professional (amateur) actors, why is that?
I believe that cinema is the strongest tool to change social and political problems and to shed the light on hot issues. I tried to adapt to the lives of my amateur actors and it took us 6 months of filming. Unlike my previous films, I had to remove myself from the majority of the scenes and I chose a minor and symbolic role. I knew too much and I didn’t want to be misleading. I wanted the actors to feel free to play the real roles of their daily lives.

Article by G.N.