Born in Baabdat, Lebanon, Nadine came to the film industry from the music entertainment industry where she directed a series of music video clips for famous Lebanese performing artists. Her most acclaimed video clip series are the ones she directed for the Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram. Her first feature film acting experience was in the Lebanese Movie Bosta. Her first feature film that drew international attention and won various international awards in the Cannes Film Festival is the film “Caramel” currently playing in various cities around the world. Besides being the director of the film, Nadine also plays one of the leading roles as well.
LR: Hi Nadine
NL: Hi Maroun
LR: I have a couple of questions to ask. First, could you tell us something about the history of the movie, how it started, how did the idea occur to you, the creative process if you wish.
NL: I have been thinking about the idea for a long time. I felt as a woman living in country like Lebanon, there are a lot of things to talk about, and much to be said about the Lebanese woman, and what we live through, and I decided to write a story about the lives of various Lebanese women.
LR: I saw the movie when I went to Lebanon for a visit during Christmas. I felt that there was some sort of symbolism. And it also seemed to me that this symbolism was missed by the western world. For example, the character of the woman with the black hair, this mystery woman if we may call her, or even more, the image of the perfect woman in the eastern world, without even a name, gets a hair cut at the end of the movie, and this hair cut has some sort of freedom, or probably, some sort of liberation. A long, lustrous, black hair, takes time, an investment. The hair cut is an act of liberation perhaps, form the traditions of the eastern society. How do you see significance in the movie in regards to the characters?
NL: That is exact. Your reading is precise in the act of liberation of this character. It is an act of liberation, a conscious act, from certain chains from the surrounding society. i will not talk about the symbolism of every character, but every the character in the movie has a certain issue that I needed to address, and all the women in the movie are summarized by that woman, wherever she is coming from, her origin, whatever her social status, age, how she lived her life so far, she makes this decision to free herself, and you feel that she carries the pressures of the image of this “perfect woman”. All these women in the film have the same pressure, whatever the age, her problem, she has to walk this prescribed “correct” line, a fear of “other people’s looks” upon her, a fear of letting go and act upon her feelings, as she wants to live. That is the reason I wanted to end the movie with this character, because in a way, and because you do not know where she comes from, symbolizes all these women.
LR: I met last week for lunch with Chadi Zeneddine, after showing his film in the MoMA in New York. The first thing to recognize is that Lebanese cinema is doing pretty well in the recent years. We are producing films that are attracting attention on a national and on an international level. I believe that this success is because the films are true towards their own identity. We are not trying to copy anyone. What do you think about this, that because the film has a “Lebanese” identity and character, it is succeeding?
NL: The film succeeds if it is a good movie, or a bad movie. There is no recipe for success. And the Lebanese film has to have a Lebanese identity, or the question becomes, why we are directing a Lebanese film to begin with. I can then travel abroad, and direct an American movie, with American actors and all, in English, a French or foreign, or any. And we have to appreciate who we are and appreciate our culture, so that we do not produce movies which are nothing but a copy of the movies produced in the west, or inspired by the foreign movies. We have to be sure of our culture, and even a little proud of our culture, so that we can speak about ourselves and who we are to everyone. But this still is not a given for success, you could make a movie about Lebanon and of the Lebanese condition, and of a Lebanese tradition, and would not succeed at all, because it is not a good movie. There are many elements that must come together for a movie to succeed.
LR: As a Lebanese artist, and I have seen this with many Lebanese artists as well, in graphic arts, comics, etc.. For example, as an artist you have written the film, directed the film, and also played one of the main characters of in the movie. It seems that the Lebanese artists have to be multi-talent if we can say. Is this part of the character of the Lebanese artist for the industry of the production of art to succeed in Lebanon?
NL: Not necessarily, I only wanted to engage in this experience in this film, and my character is thus, and what I have done in this movie is very personal, and what I have, it is part of my soul if you wish, and I find it hard to direct a film that someone else has written without adding a personal touch to it. This is not a condition still; it depends on the nature of the artist. I did what I felt like doing and it is not a condition that the artist has to know how to do it all. Still to have the idea and the experience of the various aspects of the industry, it makes the artist a more complete artist perhaps, and can look at a broader picture and understand the artistic activity batter. All of the arts complete each other especially in a film, the writing, the music, the dance, the act and the performance, and I wish I had the knowledge of the other arts as well, such as music, I wish I can play a musical instrument, and I am trying to learn more about dance and about how to dance, I paint a little, because the arts supplement each other.
LR: The DVD and soundtrack was released.? The music is also very well done.
NL: Yes they were released, so far in Lebanon and in France. By the way, is the movie still playing in New York?
LR: Yes it is.
NL: How does the American public receive it?
LR: It’s doing pretty well actually. I read a review in the New York Times on the film about a couple months ago, and it was a good review, even though this review missed parts of the message. But it seemed to get the general drift of the movie and that’s what matters.
LR: Thank you Nadine for your time.
NL: You’re welcome Maroun.
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