Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

Nadine Labaki will be the first ever Arab president of the Un Certain Regard jury at Cannes

'Sometimes life can be even better than your dreams,' said the Lebanese director of her appointment

Nadine Labaki was named Best Director at the Murex d'Or Awards. Leslie Pableo / The National
Nadine Labaki was named Best Director at the Murex d'Or Awards. Leslie Pableo / The National

All three of Nadine Labaki's feature films, Caramel, Where Do We Go Now? and Capernaum, were unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival; and it has just been announced that she will be President of the Un Certain Regard jury for the 72nd edition of the festival.

"I can't wait to debate and discuss, to be shaken up, to find inspiration in other artists' work," the Lebanese director, actress and screenwriter said of her new role.

"I remember back when I used to come to Cannes as a film student, I was so excited to experience the world's most prestigious festival. Back then, it seemed so out of reach to me. I remember getting up early in the morning and the endless queues to get a ticket.

I can't wait to find inspiration in other artists' work

"It seems like yesterday, but it was 15 years ago that I filled in the Festival de Cannes' Cinefondation registration form, my heart full of hope and my hand shaking. Today, I am the President of the Un Certain Regard Jury, which just goes to show that sometimes life can be even better than your dreams."

Labaki's 2018 film Capernaum was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe, and the director told us that legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg called it one of the best films he'd seen last year, and it received a standing ovation after its screening in Cannes last May.

What is the Un Certain Regard jury?

The Un Certain Regard official selection presents 20 films that deserve recognition every year, as nominated by a jury of film professionals. It is run parallel to the Palme d'Or competition at Cannes and was introduced in 1978.

It honours films that tell stories in "original and different" ways, and focuses on works that deserve being brought to international attention (rather than films that already have the world's interest).

There is now a top film in the category, too: in 1998, the Prix Un Certain Regard prize was established to help fund the distribution (mostly in France) of daring and innovative films. Last year, Border, a Swedish film, won the Prix Un Certain Regard. An Arab film has never won the award.

The Un Certain Regard has had a jury president since 1999, and Labaki will be the first ever Arab national to head up the committee.

In 2018, Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro was the President; in 2017 it was Uma Thurman, in 2016 it was Switzerland's Marthe Kellery, Italy's Isabella Rossellini in 2015 and Argentine Pablo Trapero in 2014.

Fifteen of the Presidents so far have been from the UK, Europe or the US.

Only two haven't: 2003 was director Abderrahmane Sissako from Mali, and 2008 was Fatih Akin, who is Turkish-German.

In fact, an Arab national has never been the president of the In Competition main jury of the festival either: actress Cate Blanchett was the jury president last year.

What's next for Labaki, filmmaking wise? We spoke to the director earlier this month, and she said she's going to continue to follow her instincts: "Everything I’ve worked on up till now, I’ve initiated myself, so I really don’t care. Of course if there’s an offer that I truly feel like doing then I will do it, definitely, but I will not wait for anyone else’s desire. I will do my thing. I’ve always done this.”

Updated: March 26, 2019 03:13 PM

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