Cannes Film Fest 2018: Nadine Labaki on Capernaum

Lebanese Nadine Labaki made history back in May, when her film Capernaum won the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Fest. (The Jury president was two-time Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett).

Capernaum is on the shortlist of nine foreign-language films, nominated for Oscar this year.  On January 23, the Academy will announce its nominations in all categories, including the five finalists in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The Globes ceremony will be January 6, and the Globes nom marks the second ever for the director’s home country of Lebanon. Labaki is also the only woman director in the foreign-language film category. And it’s all men in the Globes’ best-director race.

“I do have this sort of pride being a woman director among all these amazing filmmakers,” she said. “But of course there’s this other surprise when you feel like you’re the only one, when I know that there are so many women making films that are so interesting and so very important out there.”

Labaki emphasized the importance of female directors. “With the woman behind it. You see a different point of view of the world, you see different sensibilities,” she said of female-directed films. “I think it’s very healthy.”

Capernaum,” distributed by Sony Classics, follows a young boy who sues his parents over his birth; the production relied upon a relatively small budget and a largely inexperienced cast of non-professional actors. Labaki said she knew she was working on something special.

“Sometimes you have this instinct that what you’re doing is really on the right path and that whatever is happening in front of your eyes has a certain meaning,” she said. “We sensed that we were not just making a film, it was something beyond this. It was something bigger than us, and life, in a way, was interfering with the picture that we wrote.”

Labaki’s instinct also carried over into the filmmaking process. As a mother, she said she felt a visceral connection with many of the film’s female characters, especially in the ways they interacted with their children or expressed their views about the world. And although the characters were also quite different in other ways, she said it was important that she could help enrich the film by incorporating her own experience as a woman.

“There are codes that we understand as women and that we reflect unconsciously,” she said. “Sometimes it’s very instinctive, and it’s very subconscious. It’s a secret code between women, and we understand each other. We don’t really need to talk.”

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