Nadine Labaki: “In the cinema, I am more sensitive to the human adventure”

Lebanese director and actress Nadine Labaki, member of the FIFM 2022 Jury.

Lebanese director and actress Nadine Labaki, member of the FIFM 2022 Jury.

The director of “Caramel” also talks about her role in the controversial film “We know each other… or not” released last January on Netflix, while evoking her meeting with French actress Fany Ardant in the Swiss-Egyptian film “Return to Alexandria” by Tamer Ruggli.

As a member of the jury, which films are you most sensitive to?

I’m generally someone who lets go of his emotions, how he feels, how his body reacts… That’s my reference.

Every time I watch a film, I want to come out of it changed, awake, moved, moved. Whether by the subject, the game, the dialogues or the staging. I always like to come out with a certain enrichment, with the impression of having learned something.

As an actress, how do you choose your roles?

It’s generally the human adventure that interests me, much more than the role or the script. The important thing for me is to see if this experience or adventure will enrich me humanly? what will she teach me, what this role will bring me as an experience, with whom will I work? where am I going to turn? what am I going to learn? … You know, as actors, we have the chance to live different lives and experience different things and I think that’s also why I accept to act in films.

“Art creates empathy and humanizes certain subjects that people might ignore”.

You played in Wissam Smayra’s film “As’hab… wa’la a’az” (We know each other… or not), the commentary of the Italian film “Perfect Strangers” which was broadcast on Netflix in last January. Why did you choose this role?

We were at the time in the middle of covid, it was an opportunity for me to work on a shoot, to relive a normal life in community, with other actors, with a film crew, and to find ourselves all together in a hotel during filming… it was almost a return to “normal life”, without forgetting of course that the subject of the film was very interesting for me.

The film created a controversy in Egypt and in the Arab world in relation to the taboos it addresses (homosexuality, sexual relations before marriage, infidelity in the couple, …). Did you expect such a reaction?

The subject of the film is important because we hide so many things in our phones. The concept of what we let appear and what is really true in life is interesting in itself. The fact of having to hide to live, this discrepancy between what we are and what we want to be, … interested me a lot.


In relation to the controversy that the film has created, I think it’s a bit hypocritical to say: “what we see in the film doesn’t look like me”, or even “we don’t accept this kind of society “. I think we have to get rid of all that, we can’t react like that these days and hide behind our little finger pretending that everything is perfect, when everything the film is about exists in our societies. Arabs! The controversy surprised me a bit, I didn’t pay much attention to it, because you have to stop hiding your face and being hypocritical.

“Each time I watch a film, I want to come out of it changed, awake, moved, moved”.

Is it important for a filmmaker to engage and take sides when it comes to current political issues or conflicts?

I believe in the mission of art in general because for me it creates empathy and humanizes certain topics that people might ignore or don’t usually feel connected to. As filmmakers, we lift the veil on the struggle of other human beings, and therefore we have a huge role to play in current political or social conflicts or issues.

Whether it’s a conflict or any other social problem, it’s important to get involved as an artist but it’s very difficult in an era plagued by “political correctness”.

Tell us a bit about your role in the film by Swiss director of Egyptian origin Tamer Ruggli: “Back to Alexandria”?

It’s a film whose story takes place between Switzerland and Egypt. I interpret the role of an Egyptian woman who left Egypt a very long time ago and who lives in Switzerland. When she learns of the illness of her mother who lives in Egypt, she decides to return to her native country, to the city of Alexandria. It’s a kind of road movie with the French actress Fany Ardant who plays my mother in the film. I loved this sublime adventure, this face-to-face, this long-awaited meeting that unleashes memories, intimate moments, conflicts, constraints… and this message of maternal love… it was just magical.

“I have very fond memories of my filming in Egypt with Fany Ardant”.

What memories do you have of the film?

It was a wonderful experience, I loved playing with Fany Ardant but also shooting in Egypt, a country that I cherish and love so much. There was a very interesting dynamic between the two of us, I really like this actress, especially humanly speaking.

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Nadine Labaki: “In the cinema, I am more sensitive to the human adventure”