Friday, February 1, 2008

"Caramel" Opens Tonight

"Caramel" was written by and stars the director, Nadine Labaki. It is the Lebanese submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film and screened at Cannes.

Labaki hews closely to the advice "write what you know." The film is set in a Beirut beauty parlor in a Christian neighborhood and is based on people Nadine observed. Most of the cast are non-actors, though you'd never know.

"Caramel" has received terrific reviews, including analogies to Pedro Almodovar's work. I've been telling my friends it's like "Sex in the City" set in Beirut. It's a subtle and humorous exploration of the friendship and challenges faced by an intergenerational group of women. There is a great range of characters, from a crazy old lady who collects traffic citations from windshields to the butch lesbian who fixes the generator and washes hair, and develops a simmering relationship with one of the clients.

Labaki is an accomplished actress and music video director whose work is widely admired in the Middle East. Over drinks after the screening a Palestinian filmmaker told Nadine that his mother in Nazareth was a huge fan and that if Nadine came to their city the whole town would come to a stop.

Nadine smiled and then looked sad. Because of her citizenship, Israel and Lebanon both make such a visit impossible.

If you want to support its wider release, and have a great evening, go see "Caramel" this weekend.

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