With its jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” made history, and with its current Golden Globes nod for best foreign language motion picture, the film is on its way to marking further milestones.
“Capernaum” is on Oscar’s shortlist for foreign-language film, with nominations to be unveiled Jan. 23. The Globes ceremony will be Jan. 6, and the Globes nom marks the second ever for the director’s home country of Lebanon. Labaki is also the only woman director in the foreign-language film category. And it’s all men in the Globes’ best-director race, meaning Labaki has a notable (but lonely) distinction.
“I do have this sort of pride being a woman director among all these amazing filmmakers,” she said. “But of course there’s this other surprise when you feel like you’re the only one, when I know that there are so many women making films that are so interesting and so very important out there.”
Though thankful for the recognition, Labaki emphasized the importance of acknowledging more female directors. “You see the woman behind it. You see a different point of view of the world and you see different sensibilities,” she said of female-directed films. “I think it’s very healthy.”
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“Capernaum,” distributed by Sony Classics, follows a young boy who sues his parents over his birth; the production relied upon a relatively small budget and a largely inexperienced cast of non-professional actors. Labaki said she knew she was working on something special.
“Sometimes you have this instinct that what you’re doing is really on the right path and you have this instinct that whatever is happening in front of your eyes has a certain meaning,” she said. “We sensed that we were not just making a film, it was something beyond this. It was something bigger than us, and life, in a way, was interfering with the picture that we wrote.”
Labaki’s instinct also carried over into the filmmaking process. As a mother, she said she felt a visceral connection with many of the film’s female characters, especially in the ways they interacted with their children or expressed their views about the world. And although the characters were also quite different in other ways, she said it was important that she could help enrich the film by incorporating her own experience as a woman.
“There are codes that we understand as women and that we pick up and that we understand and that we reflect unconsciously,” she said. “I think sometimes it’s very instinctive, and it’s very subconscious. It’s a secret code between women, and we understand each other. We don’t really need to talk.”