Nadine Labaki on “Capernaum” Golden Globe nomination and women in Arab Cinema (Interview)

Written by Amal Asebriy

A realist, tearjerker and an issue movie, the third feature film by Nadine Labaki, “Capernaum” tackles child abuse and exclusion with intelligence and heart. The director was able to depict, with finesse, the hardships faced by children in Beirut’s slums in a story that earned the movie a Golden Globe nomination. “Capernaum” is set to release on December 12th in Morocco.

Congratulations on the film’s Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign-Language film. What does this recognition represent to you?

It’s a huge victory for us when you know the film was homemade. It was made collectively with my crew whom I consider family. It took a very long time and lots of work, so it’s an achievement when the film gets to compete among other great ones in the foreign-language film category. I’m certainly proud to be part of a selection of great filmmakers.

What inspired this movie?

Many things. The sight of children on the streets has become a part of our daily lives especially in Lebanon where there are a lot of Syrian refugees, and economic problems. Also images on social media including the one of the three-year-old Syrian boy who was found drowned on the Mediterranean Sea. This particular picture was a turning point in my life. It left me wondering about how we got here. Thus, all of this, has given birth to this film, this desire to be a vehicle that transmits the anger of these children.

“Capernaum” was met with great success at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize. What do you think it is that made the movie resonate with people?

Working  with people who are living the same circumstances has a big part to play, because you know that you are not just watching actors who are going to play another role in a different film but rather when you’re leaving the theater you are going to leave them there along with their daily struggles. I think it has a completely different impact on the viewer to be aware of that. And also the fact that we’ve tried to convey this story as close to reality as possible, trying to become almost invisible in order for actors to really express themselves. This is something that is sensed when watching the film. The realism is prominent, it’s almost like a documentary.

The #MeToo movement shook the world of cinema on an international level, but not as much in the Arab countries. What is the reason behind that?

I think because in the Arab world, surprisingly enough, women are able to express themselves more than anywhere else in the world. In Lebanon for example, there are more women working in the film industry than men. I’m not sure if it’s the same in Morocco, but I’m sure that many Arab women are not feeling this frustration that others are feeling in Hollywood. I haven’t analyzed the reasons behind that yet. It’s very surprising, however, and very amazing to witness.