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A Closer Look at Nadine Labaki

From the big screen to being behind the camera, Lebanese filmmaker and actress Nadine Labaki took the world of Arabic cinema by storm. Labaki's career took off in 2007 when she released Caramel, her debut movie that made it to the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. Nadine's films are notable for representing the everyday aspects of life in Lebanon and the sociopolitical struggles that families faced during times of war and turmoil in the region. Labaki was even "the first female Arab director to be nominated for an Oscar in the category for Best Foreign Language Film!" She lived the first 17 years of her life in an environment devastated by war but was nevertheless exposed to theater by her grandfather. He ran a small theater in Lebanon, which kickstarted her love for film. Labaki was a leading female figure for her activism on women's rights and portraying those struggles in her movies. She continues to touch people's minds and hearts through her films.

Labaki's film Capernaum was released in 2018 and eventually made its way to the Oscars, and can now be viewed internationally on Netflix. I was lucky to attend the premiere of Capernaum in Amman. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amounts of people waiting in line to buy snacks, take a photo with the director, and make their way to a designated theater. The lights dimmed, and people's voices turned into whispers, and the movie's first scene appeared—an aerial shot of homes in Lebanon that looked lively. Soon enough, we met the main character Zain, a frustrated and troubled young boy who questioned the life he lived and his parents' decisions for their family. I instantly smirked at the idea of sharing a name with the resilient refugee and continued watching the movie in awe. One of my favorite aspects of the film was the score composed by Labaki's husband, Khaled Mouzanar. To me, a musical score is everything! Think Pirates of the Caribbean or Interstellar! Composer Hans Zimmers's genius is what allowed those movies to leave a timeless impact on their audience! Sounds resonate with people, especially when they're combined with brilliant acting. In this case, the music was almost as important as the main character. The violins were sad but hopeful.

When the credits began to roll on the screen, I knew everyone was moved for the rest of their lives. I couldn't decide if the film was heartwarming or heartbreaking. A big part of me felt a great distance between myself and the main character—an uncomfortable and guilty distance. Labaki opened my eyes to the inescapable truths of poverty. Not only did her film capture sacrifice in its most vulnerable form, but it also touched on critical matters ranging from poverty and marriage to boyhood. Labaki's piece opened an everlasting conversation between the audience and the art.


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