Labaki in 2012
Nadine Antoine Labaki
February 18, 1974
Nadine Labaki (Arabic: نادين لبكي Nādīn Labikī; born February 18, 1974) is a Lebanese actress, director and activist. Labaki first came into the spotlight as an actress in the early 2000s. Her film-making career began in 2007 after the release of her debut film, Caramel, which premiered at the Cannes 2007 Film Festival. She is known for demonstrating everyday aspects of Lebanese life and covering a range of political issues such as war, poverty, and feminism. She is the first female Arab director to be nominated for an Oscar in the category for Best Foreign Language Film.
Labaki was born in Baabdat, Mount Lebanon Governorate, Lebanon, in a Maronite family to Antoine and Antoinette Labaki. Her father is an engineer while her mother is a homemaker. She spent the first seventeen years of her life living in a war-torn environment, until 1991 when the civil war in Lebanon had ended. Early in life she learned the art of story telling from her uncle, who was the family hakawati (story teller). Her grandfather also owned a small theatre in Lebanon where she found her love for film. She began her career with Studio El Fan, a Lebanese talent show, in 1990. The show aired during the 1970s, which continued through to the early 2000s. At the talent show, Labaki won a prize for directing various music video productions.
Labaki obtained a degree in audiovisual studies at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. In 1997, she directed her graduation film, 11 Rue Pasteur, which won the Best Short Film Award at the Biennale of Arab Cinema at the Arab World Institute in Paris. Labaki is unique among her fellow Lebanese and Arab Film Makers in that she was not educated or trained abroad.
In 1998, she attended a workshop in acting at the Cours Florent in Paris. With her sister Caroline Labaki as executive producer, she went on to direct advertisements and music videos for renowned Middle Eastern singers, for which she won several awards. Striving to project the contemporary Lebanese woman, she "created examples of Lebanese women who were very at ease in their bodies."
In 2003, Labaki's name began to become more popular within the Arab media. 2003 was also the year when she began directing music videos for singer Nancy Ajram. The song, "Akhasmak ah" (I'll taunt you), sparked controversy due to the nudity presented and its sexually explicit dancing. Ajram's female character, who serves as a waitress to male customers, was seen as inappropriate and too evocative Labaki defended her script, stating that Ajram was actually portraying an "assertive and powerful female figure". Labaki and Ajram worked to redefine the image of the current Arab woman as feminine, alluring and in control. Ajram continued to collaborate with Labaki on her music videos, "Ya Salam," "Lawn Ouyounak" and "Inta Eih." The three videos were awarded with best music video honors.
In 2005, Labaki took part in the Cannes Film Festival Residence for six months, during that time, she wrote Caramel, her first feature film. In 2006, she directed and played one of the leading roles in Caramel, which showcases a Beirut that most people are not familiar with. Rather than tackle political issues that have plagued Lebanon, she presents a comedy that deals with five Lebanese women in Beirut who gather at a beauty salon and deal with issues related to love, sexuality, tradition, disappointment, and everyday ups and downs. The film premiered at the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007, which was a commercial success in the summer of that same year. It sold worldwide and collected important prizes at many festivals around the world, garnering Labaki much acclaim both as a director and actress. It also put her on Variety's 10 Directors to Watch list at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2008 the French Ministry of Culture and Communication gave her the Insignia of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters.
In 2010, Labaki directed and starred in her second feature film, Where Do We Go Now? The film humorously tackles a delicate subject about a war ravaged Middle Eastern village in which Muslim and Christian women try to keep their men from starting a religious war. The idea for this film first came about when Labaki was pregnant with her son in 2008. At that time, Lebanon was at the brink of its most violent turmoil in decades. Interreligious conflict led to outbursts in the streets of Beirut. Labaki speaks of friends becoming enemies due to religious differences. Preparing for motherhood, she began to ponder what extreme lengths mothers would go to prevent their sons from obtaining arms and taking to the streets to fight. This one idea sparked the narrative of this film, in which an entire town of women begin a mission to prevent the men from brutally killing each other. The story takes place in Lebanon, although never explicitly stated. Labaki's reasoning for this was that "the film is universal... this conflict does not only happen in Lebanon. I see it everywhere . . . We are scared of each other as human beings." Similarly to Caramel, her second feature casts non-professional actors. In effort to heighten the reality, Labaki states that "normal people deserve to be on the big screen."
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard category in 2011. The film won the Cadillac people's choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival. It also collected many other awards in festivals around the world, like Cannes Film Festival, San Sebastián International Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival, Doha Tribeca Film Festival. The film was also nominated for best foreign film at the Critics Choice Awards in Los Angeles. During its opening weekend, the film hit the largest ever admissions total for an Arabic-speaking film in Lebanon, amounting 21,475 admissions for a total of $153,358.
In late 2013, Nadine Labaki started work on her third feature film called Capernaum which was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at 2018 Cannes Film Festival. The film tells the story of a 12-year-old boy living in the slums of Beirut. He strives to sue his parents for bringing him into a world of suffering and negligence of children. Labaki wrote the screenplay along with Jihad Hojeily, Michelle Kesrouani, Georges Khabbaz and her husband, Khaled Mouzanar. Mouzanar further produced the film and composed the music. The title Capernaum, means 'chaos'.
For three years prior to writing, Labaki extensively researched the city's children to gather accounts of their experiences, stories and pasts. She used mostly non-professional actors for this film, including lead child actor Zain Al Rafeea, who was found in one of the slums playing with friends, a Syrian refugee himself. Although a rather anti-classical style of filmmaking, Labaki deems her system as "very organic." She strived to provide these "forgotten children" with a voice and use her cinematic tools to ignite a lasting change.
Labaki's style of cinematography uses cinematic conventions, such as illuminations, atmosphere lighting, and silence to help convey the meaning in her films. Despite the often dangerous political situations Labaki continues to write and direct films that do not focus on conflict.
Her movie Capernaum was nominated in the foreign-language Oscars category, which was a first for a female director in 2019. She is the first female Arab director to ever be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
In collaboration with the UNHCR and UNICEF, Zain Al Rafeea and his family have been resettled in Norway. He and his siblings are attending school for the first time in their lives with a hope of regaining their childhoods. This, says Labaki, is the greatest reward.
Nadine Labaki started acting in short films during the early 2000s. She starred in Zeina Durra's The Seventh Dog. The work won the audience award at the Circuito Off Venice International Short Film Festival in 2006.
In the same year, Labaki acted in her first feature film, Caramel.
Labaki starred in Stray Bullet, directed by Georges Hachem in 2010.
Labaki often casts herself in her movies. She feels, "When I act with the people I cast, they feel more comfortable. I like to improvise a lot, and when I am in the film, it's like directing the scene from the inside."
Themes and directing style
Labaki's films challenge apathy towards important issues, such as the refugee crisis and poverty. Though themes of war and tragedy are prevalent in Labaki's works, so is humour. Her films cover the Lebanese Civil War and the lasting impacts it had on the country. Her experiences impacted Labaki personally as well as how it shaped her filmmaking. Labaki has stated that she feels that as a director she has to do something good for her country. She then decided that talking about problems such as poverty and the refugee crisis is important. FF2 Media covered a Q&A with Labaki in 2018 about her movie Capernaum, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (as well as 34 other wins and 46 other nominations). She stated that while trying to brainstorm concepts for the script, her team came up with ideas that she wanted to include, such as "child labor, migrant labor rights, children's rights, the absurdity of having to have the papers to prove that you exist, the absurdity of borders, and early marriage". She believes that “Cinema can be a way to [create] change.” She has stated that she believes that politics and art are intertwined and that her films are her own “way of revolt”. According to Labaki, "sometimes, a line in a film, or a scene can make you think about yourself, about your decisions. By touching your hearts films can offer hope more than politics". Labaki's films have no solutions for the issues Lebanon faces, but she hopes that her films will "simply shake audiences out of their chronic lethargy". She has stated that for her, filmmaking and activism are one and the same, believing that cinema can effect social change.
Another common theme in her work is feminism and the female narrative. She does this by focusing on the everyday lives of women in the middle East in her films.
Through her films, Nadine Labaki connects themes from the Arab world and the Western world. Her transnational feminism highlights ordinary women affected by complex realities deeply rooted in decades of political turmoil.
Labaki's films are often cast with non-professional actors. She often finds men, women, and children who live in the real neighborhoods shown on screen where they re-enact scenes from their own experiences, often in some of Beirut's grittiest slums. Labaki does this to make the film as realistic as possible. Labaki is also known for spending long periods of time to research and pick the cast for her films. She immerses herself in the lives of her subjects and spent four years researching her subject and the mistreated children in Beirut. For her film Capernaum, she gave her actors minimal direction and used hand-held cameras to capture life in the streets of Lebanon. For her film Caramel, she spent almost a year searching for women who resembled her characters. She purposely did not want professional actors, she explained, and the spontaneity of each authenticates the plot of women supporting each other as they cope with their problems. The filmmaker amassed months of raw footage, which she later edited down to just over two hours.
Labaki states that she was inspired by the photo of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee whose lifeless body sparked outrage around the world. Stating, "I remember thinking if this child could talk, what would he say, and how would he address the adults that killed him?" she says. "I wanted to become their voice, their vehicle for them to express themselves."
In a 2012 interview with Jan Lisa Huttner from FF2 Media, Labaki said: "I have a problem with injustice. I have a problem with seeing the wrong things around me and just not saying anything about them". She likes to address relevant issues and portray them through her art, be it acting, directing, or even dance. Her movie Where Do We Go Now? heavily incorporates dance, and in the same interview with FF2 Media, she mentioned that she has a background of being a dancer.
Labaki is multilingual, fluent in Arabic, French, English and Italian. In 2007, she married musician and composer Khaled Mouzanar. In 2009, Nadine Labaki gave birth to her first boy, Walid. In 2016, Labaki gave birth to a daughter, Mayroun.
In 2016, Labaki received an honorary degree from the American University of Beirut and was the speaker at the 150th Commencement Ceremony.
Nadine Labaki was a candidate on the list of the new political movement Beirut Madinati for the capital's May 2016 local election. Beirut Madinati focuses on social justice and the good of the public utilizing a diverse group of citizens as representatives.
Despite achieving about 40% of the popular vote, the movement lost against its opponent, the 'Beirutis' list' supported by Saad Hariri, in all 6 out of 12 wards, but did not gain a single seat under the election's one-district First-past-the-post system.
As a director
- Caramel or Sukkar Banat. Premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. (See Caramel for a list of awards and nominations).
- Where Do We Go Now? released and premiered as part of the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
- Rio, I Love You segment: O Milagre
- Capernaum (2018) premiered at Cannes 2018 in the feature film competition, and won the jury prize, along with many other awards from other international festivals
As an actress
- Ramad (Ashes) – a short film by Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (2003)
- The Seventh Dog – a short film by Zeina Durra
- Non métrage Libanais (2003) – a short film by Wissam Smayra; Role as Nina
- Bosta – a long feature by Philippe Aractingi; Role as Alia
- Caramel or Sukkar Banat (2007) – Role as Layale
- Stray Bullet (2010) – Role as Noha
- Al Abb Wal Gharib The Father And The Foreigner (2010) by Ricky Tognazzi
- Where Do We Go Now? (2011) – Role as Amale
- Rock The Casbah (2013)
- Mea Culpa (2014)
- Rio, I Love You (2014) – Role as self
- La Rançon de la gloire (2014)
- The Idol (2015)
- Capernaum (2018) – Role as Nadine
- 1982 (2019) – Yasmine
|2020||Bodil Awards||Best Non-American Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2020||Danish Film Awards (Robert)||Best Non-English Language Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2020||Guldbagge Awards||Best Foreign Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Academy Awards||Best Foreign Language Film of the Year||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Golden Globes||Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||BAFTA Awards||Best Film Not in the English Language||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Alliance of Women Film Journalists||Best Non-English Language Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Alliance of Women Film Journalists||Best Woman Director||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Amanda Awards, Norway||Best Foreign Feature Film||Capernaum||Won|||
|2019||Awards Circuit Community Awards||Best Foreign Language Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||César Awards, France||Best Foreign Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||FEST International Film Festival||Best Director||Capernaum||Won|||
|2019||Globes de Cristal Awards, France||Best Foreign Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Kinema Junpo Awards||Best Foreign Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Film Awards||Best Foreign Language Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Palm Springs International Film Festival||Best Foreign Language Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Rotterdam International Film Festival||IFFR Audience Award||Capernaum||Won|||
|2019||The Lebanese Movie Awards||Best Lebanese Director – Motion Picture||Capernaum||Won|||
|2019||The Lebanese Movie Awards||Best Ensemble Cast In A Lebanese Motion Picture||Capernaum||Won|||
|2019||The Lebanese Movie Awards||Best Writing In A Lebanese Motion Picture||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2019||Vilnius International Film Festival||Best Feature Film||Capernaum||Won|||
|2019||Young Artist Awards||Humanitarian Award||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Adelaide Film Festival||Best Feature||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2018||Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival||Best Film – Youth Jury Film Prize||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival||Best Film – Golden Orange||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2018||Asia Pacific Screen Awards||Achievement in Directing||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||British Independent Film Awards||Best International Independent Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2018||Calgary International Film Festival||US/International Narrative Feature||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Calgary International Film Festival||Fan Favourite Award||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Cannes Film Festival||Jury Prize||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Cannes Film Festival||Prize of the Ecumenical Jury||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Cannes Film Festival||Prix de la citoyenneté||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Cannes Film Festival||Palme d'Or||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2018||Festival international du cinema francophone en Acadie||Best Feature Film||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Festival international du cinema francophone en Acadie||Public Choice Award||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Ghent International Film Festival||North Sea Port Audience Award||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Melbourne International Film Festival||Best Narrative Feature||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Mill Valley Film Festival||World Cinema||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Montréal Festival of New Cinema||Peace Award||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Norwegian International Film Festival||Best Film||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Sarajevo Film Festival||Best Feature Film||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||St. Louis International Film Festival||TV5MONDE Award for Best International Film||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Stockholm Film Festival||Best Screenplay||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||Stockholm Film Festival||Best Film||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2018||São Paulo International Film Festival||Best Feature Film||Capernaum||Won|||
|2018||São Paulo International Film Festival||Best Foreign Fiction||Capernaum||Won|||
|2017||Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Foreign Language Fiction||Capernaum||Nominated|||
|2012||Murex D'Or||Best Lebanese Film Award||Where Do We Go Now?||Won|||
|2011||Cannes Film Festival||Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention||Where Do We Go Now?||Won|||
|2011||Cannes Film Festival||François Chalais Award||Where Do We Go Now?||Won|||
|2011||Cannes Film Festival||Un Certain Regard Award||Where Do We Go Now?||Nominated|||
|2011||Oslo Films from the South Festival||Audience Award||Where Do We Go Now?||Won|||
|2011||Oslo Films from the South Festival||Silver Mirror Award||Where Do We Go Now?||Nominated|||
|2011||San Sebastián International Film Festival||Best European Film||Where Do We Go Now?||Won|||
|2011||Stockholm Film Festival||Best Script||Where Do We Go Now?||Won|||
|2011||Stockholm Film Festival||Best Film||Where Do We Go Now?||Nominated|||
|2011||Toronto International Film Festival||People's Choice Award||Where Do We Go Now?||Won|||
|2009||Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards||Best Foreign Film, Not in the Spanish Language||Caramel||Nominated|||
|2008||Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Actress||Caramel||Nominated|||
|2008||Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards||Breakthrough Artist||Caramel||Nominated|||
|2007||Asia Pacific Screen Awards||Achievement in Directing||Caramel||Nominated|||
|2007||Asia Pacific Screen Awards||Best Performance by an Actress||Caramel||Nominated|||
|2007||Cannes Film Festival||Golden Camera||Caramel||Nominated|||
|2007||Cannes Film Festival||C.I.C.A.E. Award||Caramel||Nominated|||
|2007||Oslo Films from the South Festival||Best Feature||Caramel||Won|||
|2007||San Sebastián International Film Festival||Audience Award||Caramel||Won|||
|2007||San Sebastián International Film Festival||Youth Jury Award||Caramel||Won|||
|2007||San Sebastián International Film Festival||Sebastiane Award||Caramel||Won|||
|2007||Stockholm Film Festival||FIPRESCI Prize||Caramel||Won|||
|2007||Paris Biennal of Arab Cinema||Best Short Film – Fiction||11 Rue Pasteur||Won|||
In 2014, Labaki was the goodwill ambassador for the bilingual and multimedia campaign produced by The Brave Heart Fund (BHF). Based out of the Children's Heart Center at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, the BHF creates awareness and helps to fund operations and procedures for underprivileged children with Congenital Heart Disease.
- نادين لبكي مخرجة لبنانية وممثلة أوروبية
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