Advertisement Close

Another Career Milestone: Nadine Labaki is the First Arab Woman to Become Eligible for an Oscar

posted on: Dec 29, 2018



Nadine Labaki recently became the first Arab female filmmaker to make an Oscars shortlist. Her film, “Capharnaüm,” was included in the list for the Best Foreign Language film category. While 87 countries submitted entries for the category, just nine films made the cut. And her feat could lead Labaki, who is also an actress and screenwriter, to become the first Arab woman to be officially nominated at the Oscars. The formal nominations will be announced on January 22.

The award-winning filmmaker, who grew up in Beirut, took to Instagram to express her excitement and thank the Academy. “What an incredible moment in our film’s journey and a major milestone for Lebanese and Arab cinema. After years of research, tears and sweat, long production hours and sleepless nights, our film has been recognized on this year’s Foreign Language #Oscar shortlist among 8 other films from a selection that exceeded 80 submissions from all around the world. We couldn’t be prouder.”

The Insult by Ziad Doueiri was shortlisted last year, making “Capharnaüm” the second film from Lebanon to ever be selected. “What an incredible moment in our film’s journey and a major milestone for Lebanese and Arab cinema!” a post from the film’s official Twitter account read. The eight other films “Capharnaüm” is up against include Mexico’s Roma, Shoplifters from JapanSouth Korea’s Burning, and Cold War from Poland.

The announcement came just weeks after “Capharnaüm” landed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture – Foreign Language, making it the first Lebanese film to get a nod at the important awards ceremony. Earlier this year Labaki also made history while at the Cannes Film Festival. She became the first female Arab filmmaker and only the second woman to ever pick up the Jury Prize.

The emotional fictional film, which received a reported 15-minute standing ovation at its premiere screening in Cannes, is about 12-year-old Zain. The boy, played by Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea, has to resort to stealing and begging to survive on the streets of Beirut and faces a gloomy and loveless existence. The charged drama sees the mistreated boy suing his parents in court for bringing him into the world when they can’t raise him properly. In flashbacks, Labaki, who was inspired by things she had seen and people she had met, reveals the terrible struggles Zain, who is facing a jail term, has been through since the day he was born.

As well as “Capharnaüm,” which means a “disorderly accumulation of objects” in Arabic, Labaki, who graduated in audiovisual studies from Beirut’s Saint Joseph University, is behind two other social dramas, Caramel and Where Do We Go Now? She took advantage of a residency at the Cannes Film Festival to write Caramel, her first feature, which premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight during the festival’s 2007 edition and became a huge international hit.  Where Do We Go Now? premiered within the festival’s Un Certain Regard category in 2011. She has also made a number of award-winning adverts and music videos.