Nadine Labaki is a well known actress and music video director in her native Lebanon, and she’s currently making a splash in the UK with her first feature film, Caramel. Here she talks to View London’s Matthew Turner about bonding with co-stars, directing non-professional actors and Pedro Almodovar.
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.
I was amazed to read that the cast were all non-professional actors. Can you say a little about that?
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.
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?
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.
The film reminded me a lot of Pedro Almodovar's films. Was he a particular influence?
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.
Are there any other directors you admire?
I love Lars Von Trier, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen and an Iraqi director called Bahman Ghobadi.
Do you know what your next film will be?
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.