Sunday, August 22, 2010

Interview with Nadine Labaki (writer, director and star of Caramel) - October 26th, 2007

Promoting: Caramel
Venue: Sofitel Hotel
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): So far, Caramel has been shown in France, Switzerland, Lebanon, Toronto, Dubai and Spain. What's the reaction to the film been like so far?

Nadine Labaki (NL): It's been amazing, everywhere we go. It's amazing how, even though the culture is different, people are reacting very warmly – it's a very warm feeling overall, it's a very positive reaction. People feel connected to this film, connected to the characters. They identify with them, they identify with the situations.

VL: I was amazed to read that the cast were all non-professional actors. Can you say a little about that?

NL: Yes, it's the first time they've acted. I wanted to use non-actors because I wanted to give the audience the impression that they were spying on other people's lives, not that they were watching a fiction with actors that were pretending to be someone else. I just wanted them to be who they were in life, to be the same in the film. So I didn't ask them to act, I just asked them to be. But the casting took a long time, it took over a year.

VL: It was your first film as a writer-director, so how difficult a decision was it for you to act in the film as well?

NL: It came when I started working on the casting and when I started auditioning the other parts. When I was playing Layale with them and I was with them in the scenes, it would create a very strong bond between us and it would just make the best come out of them. Because I was with them in the scene I could really direct it the way I wanted it and they would react to whatever I was saying. And it created something really strong, so that gave me the strength and the courage to say, yeah, I can do it. Even though it wasn't going to be easy, I decided to go along with it, because it really created something very special. And this friendship that happens in the film is a real friendship, you know, it's not fake. We really are all friends now. So it was not an easy adventure, but I'm happy with the result.

VL: The film reminded me a lot of Pedro Almodovar's films. Was he a particular influence?

NL: I absolutely love his films but he has a fantasy world where his situations are unreal or they're the result of his imagination or fantasies, whereas in my film it's based on reality and true things. But I think there's a similarity in that we both talk about women in a very loving way and I adore his films. Actually, the character of Gisele is a very Almodovarian character but it wasn't deliberate, although I take it as a compliment.

VL: Are there any other directors you admire?

NL: I love Lars Von Trier, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen and an Iraqi director called Bahman Ghobadi.

VL: Do you know what your next film will be?

NL: No, I have many themes that I'd like to explore but I don't know yet. I'm still not obsessed with one. I need to be obsessed with something before I write about it, because I want it to be as true as possible. So I'm just waiting to see what will happen next.

Note: I've posted interview notes in the comments section below.

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At 2:11 AM , Blogger FilmFan said...

Notes for Nadine Labaki interview

00:14 - Background

Audio visual school, music videos. No movie industry in Lebanon. Needed something else, met producer, how it all happened.

01.14 – Husband calls.

03.00 – Phonecall ends.

Where film has screened.

03.30 – released in France, Lebanon, Switzerland etc.

03.44 – response to film amazing everywhere. Warm, positive reaction overall. Identify with characters and situations.

04.20 – Cast all non-professional actors. Spying on other people's lives, not watching fiction. Be who they were in life, be the same in the film. Didn't ask them to act just asked them to be. Took a long time to cast. Not easy to work with them because they don't have sense of rhythm etc. Not easy but magical moments.

05.32 – Difficult to act in the film as well?

Direct it the way I wanted it because I was with them in the scene. Friendship is a real friendship, it's not fake.

06.40 – Didn't know any of them beforehand? Knew two of them.

07.20 – Two old ladies. One found on street.

08.30 – Almodovar an influence? I love his films. Similar in that we're both talking about women but his films have a fantasy element, but my film is based on reality, true things. But there is a similarity in that we both talk about women in a loving way. Not deliberate but one character is Almodovarian.

09.54 – Lars Von Trier, Coen Brothers, Bhaman Ghobadi,

10.50 – need to be obsessed with something before I write about it. Not sure about next project.

11.00 – act again? In someone else's film? Absolutely, yeah.

12.00 – Middle East, can do crazy things as an actor you couldn't do in life. So yes, I love acting.

12.45 – Reaction to homosexuality in film. Only show reality the way it is, no bad reaction. People know the reality. Really positive, raising a lot of questions.


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