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INTERNATIONAL TRIBUTE: Nadine Labaki

Lebanon is a country known for its vibrant culture and dense historical trajectory. In recent years, after the internal conflicts and military interventions that devastated the nation, unmistakable voices of begin to resurface in the artistic landscape. Nadine Labaki is one of the main representatives of this luminous road, reminding us with her cinema that qualities such as humor, tenderness, compassion and intelligence unite us above our religious, political, ethnic and gender divisions that keep us from engaging with one another. Born in 1974, the Civil War marked her life as well as the lives of everyone of her fellow countrymen for decades. She found a refuge in cinema, television and carefully observing life. That profound look that imagines habitable territories beyond the ruins and the violence would be fertile ground from where to plant her enormous capacity for storytelling. Her first encounter with artistic life was in the Studio El Fan talent competition, where she won due to her capacity for directing music videos. Labaki majored in Audiovisual Studies at the Saint Joseph University in Beirut. Her graduation film, 11 Rue Pasteur was awarded Best Short Film at the Arabic Cinema Biennial organized by the Arab World Institute in Paris. From then on, Nadine Labaki gained recognition in her country as a gifted music video director during a period of creative exploration for the format worldwide. Thanks to the Cinéfondation Residence, Labaki developed the screenplay for what would be her feature film debut: Caramel (2007), produced by Anne-Dominique Toussaint. In this successful film, Labaki joined a cast of non-professional actresses to examine femininity from different points of view, seizing the atmosphere of free intimacy that is generated in beauty salons. The film premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, where she competed for the Caméra d’Or and was awarded at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Even though she tried to create a world that was separate from war tragedies, during the filming of Caramel, conflict broke out again in a country that always seems to be on the verge of chaos. This may have been the motivation for her next film, Where Do We Go Now? In that one she tackles Lebanese socio-politics through a fable about a small town where women make sure their husbands don’t find out the news. Where do we go now? Premiered at the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and was awarded in Toronto, San Sebastian and Tribeca, among others. After directing the O Milagre segment of the anthology film Rio, I Love You (2014), Labaki premiered her next movie, Capharnaüm, which competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. The film is once again a concentrated parable in which non-professional actors were used. In it we witness the amazing life of Zain, a little boy who sues his own parents for giving him a life they knew would be a miserable one. In only her third film, the Lebanese actress earned a 15-minute standing ovation and the Jury Prize. The origin of Capharnaüm is a personal experience. After returning from a party, the director watched a little boy half asleep in the arms of a mother who was begging in the streets. Labaki researched retention centers, poor neighborhoods, assistance institutions and juvenile prisons for three years, inquiring on the ways society fails who are unfavored. The realistic and confrontational approach has given her cinema a new dimension, deepening the quality of her work. Nadine Labaki presents an idiosyncratic look born of the concerns from the world around her— femininity, battles against sectarianism, social injustice … Through effort and talent, Nadine Labaki has earned her place that allows her to build bridges between the Arab world and the Western world, despite cultural, social and political difficulties. The Guanajuato International Film Festival is pleased to pay tribute to a great artist, an example of persistence and fidelity to the roads traced by her own passions.