Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki, who set history as the first Arab woman filmmaker to win a major prize at the Cannes Film Festival with her Capharnaüm (Lebanon/2018) this year, says the film has become a conversation-starter but it is now time to act and make a difference to the lives of the underprivileged children.
“The impact [of the film] has already started,” she said at a media briefing at the sixth Ajyal Film Festival, the annual cinema event hosted by the Doha Film Institute at Katara Cultural Village, where Capharnaüm is being screened.
The powerful film that won the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival 2018 retraces the journey of 12-year-old Zain, who decides to sue his parents for having brought him into this world when they clearly can’t give him the care he so desperately needs. In his harrowing journey, he must also take care of the infant Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole), the child of an Ethiopian single mother desperately trying to secure a residence permit.
“The film has become a real conservation; people are coming out of the shell and talking about the issues. But the real impact is something we must work on. For me, it is important that we talk to the government and see what we can do to make change.”
Labaki said she shot over 500 hours of footage, filmed over six months, and edited over a period of about two years. However, the majority of the film’s five years went into research, which gave her the tremendous insights on the lives of refugee children.
“We went to the streets, slums and unfortunate neighbourhoods in our country and interviewed people [to find the characters]. It was important that when you are showing a real struggle you must show the reality of things. I didn’t want to imagine the story. I didn’t feel entitled to imagine something I have not personally lived. We researched for three years almost, writing the film in parallel.”
Labaki said the extensive research also helped her to understand the situation better. “I have been researching so much, so long that I know the failures of the system. I know what must be tackled. We must really begin talking about the problem, listen to each other and see what we can do and try to change.”
Labaki said in working with the child actors, “timing was very important. You had to spend time with them and know them well. My daughter was the same age as Treasure, so it gave me so much knowledge about what is going to happen when she is hungry, when she wants to sleep. It is all about knowing children and being very patient. You have to adapt to their rhythm and not expect them to do what we need. We must capture their reactions in reality and sometimes knowing that if it doesn’t happen today, it will happen tomorrow.”
Do not miss the screening of Capharnaüm today (Saturday, Dec. 1), 8:30 PM at the Novo Cinemas, The Pearl.
2018 Ajyal Film Festival’s Official Partners include: Katara Cultural Village – Cultural Partner; Ooredoo – Principal Partner; Novo Cinemas – Strategic Partner and St. Regis Doha – Signature Sponsor.
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