An exotic femme fatale in head-to-toe black, Nadine Labaki looks stunning, despite being tired. The Lebanese filmmaker has been in back-to-back interviews with journalists from as far afield as Australia and American who’ve descended upon Qatar for the third instalment of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. They all want to talk to Nadine who has become the talk of the industry since her second film, Where Do We Go Now?, won rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The critics were as impressed as they had been by her first film, Caramel, proving this talented actor/director from the Middle East is no one-trick pony.
Caramel centred on a Lebanese beauty salon and focused on the relationships of the women who worked there; Where Do We Go Now? follows suit, with a predominantly female cast who use their feminine wiles to keep their husbands out of war. As well as writing the screenplays and directing, Nadine acted in both films.
At Doha, this triple-threat scooped the award for Best Narrative Film, winning $100,000, though she doesn’t need the money – her first film Caramel cost $1.3 million to make but brought in well over $15 million (she’s not sure of the exact figure just yet, and I get the impression money’s not that important to her). As for accolades, she’s not short on those either. Where Do we Go Now? beat two popular entries starring George Clooney (The Descendants and The Ides of March) to win the People's Choice Award at Toronto.
With global fame and critical success taken care of, where does Nadine Labaki go from here? Ahlan! caught up with the 37-year-old to find out...
What will you do now that your latest film has been premiered?
I think I’ll get some time off in a few months, but not now. I’m still travelling a lot with the film, going to several festivals and other premieres around the world.
Are you travelling with a huge red carpet wardrobe?
Yes, so far I’ve worn Elie Saab, Stephane Rolland and Piaff Beirut... I love Piaff, and I’m also an ambassador for Hoss Intropia.
You wrote Where Do We Go Now? in 2008 while pregnant with your first child to husband Khaled Mouzanar – has family life influenced your work?
I’ve been married five years now – my husband is the composer on to my two films. Marriage didn’t really change me, but motherhood did. You have more responsibility, you’re thinking of this human being who is born and needs to grow up in a safe and sane society, and you’re less selfish. I don’t think I would have written this film if I wasn’t a mother.
Do you think you’ll have more kids in future?
My husband wants a lot of kids, but I don’t think I’ll be able to... We’ll see...
What about doing a big-budget Hollywood film?
I don’t think so. It’s tempting, but I’m not sure I would succeed. I might, but I feel more authentic making films that I write myself that are close to my culture.
You’ve worked a lot with Nancy Ajram – will you ever make another music video with her?
I don’t think so, that was a different phase. There is no film industry in Lebanon, so it was the only place for me to learn my craft and experiment, but now that I’ve done films, this is my dream.
What was Nancy like to work with?
She’s amazing – she’s really talented. I really like her and we have a very nice friendship, but it’s not part of my dream anymore to make music videos.
Would you ever direct Nancy in a feature film?
I’ve never thought about it, but yeah, why not.
Are there any actors you’d like to work with in future?
It’s strange, but I’ve never dreamed of working with a big star. I’m more focused on wanting the film to succeed in itself. Mostly I work with non-professional actors – many of the actors in Where Do We Go Now? had never been in front of the camera before. It’s about seeing people on the big screen that look like you, identifying with them very easily. You know, they have flaws, they’re not perfect, and that’s what I like. I like to flirt with reality. I like you, as a viewer, to sometimes wonder is this true, is this fiction, was this a stolen moment, did this really happen? I like to create this confusion.
INFO: Nadine Labaki's Where Do We Go Now? is released in the GCC tonight (10 November 2011).