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Oscars 2019: Nadine Labaki didn't take an Oscar home, but still shed light on plight of refugees

Lebanon rallies around 'Capernaum' director

Khaled Mouzanar, Zain al-Rafeea and Nadine Labaki arrive at the 91st annual Academy Awards. EPA
Khaled Mouzanar, Zain al-Rafeea and Nadine Labaki arrive at the 91st annual Academy Awards. EPA

Nadine Labaki was the only female director whose feature film was nominated at Sunday night's Academy Awards, and while Capernaum lost out to Roma for Best Foreign Film, the fact she was nominated was an achievement within itself.

She was only the second female Arab director to have ever been nominated for an Oscar, and her film Capernaum sheds light on the plight of Syrian refugees, with much of the cast made up of amateur actors who are refugees themselves.

The film's star, Zain Al Rafeea (now 14), is a Syrian refugee, who has recently settled in Norway with his family.

Labaki met the children in Capernaum in Beirut during the two years she spent researching the film, and she told The National after her Cannes success that she is pleased to dedicate its success to them. “Really, everyone in the film is expressing their own situation and for me that’s the most significant victory," the director said.

"A few days ago these people didn’t exist, literally. Most of them don’t even have papers to prove their existence, so all of a sudden to shed light on them and their situation, everybody’s talking about them and recognising their talents, that’s a huge achievement.”

It's safe to say that Lebanon is still very proud of Labaki, and the film: Lebanese-American writer Dana Dargos wrote this about why Labaki inspires her, and so many other people from Lebanon, on her Instagram:

"Although Nadine Labaki lost, we are beyond proud of her for so many reasons. But the main ones are... One: because she was courageous enough to expose taboos that Arab society wouldn't dare illustrate... Two: because she worked so hard as a female director... And three: because she introduced the world to Lebanese cinema, and encouraged promising Lebanese artists to chase after their dreams."

Labaki herself shared that she was happy to have just made it to the ceremony as well, after directing her fourth feature film: "I just can't believe I'm actually here, after all this time."

Before the awards, Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri wished the team well on Twitter. "I wish all the best to Nadine Labaki and the crew of the film, Capernaum, in its nomination for Oscars," Hariri posted on Saturday evening.

"Our hearts are with you and all of Lebanon is proud of you, Nadine Labaki."

Here are a few other heartwarming tweets from those who thought Labaki deserved recognition, and achieved a lot from her nomination:

Updated: February 25, 2019 12:41 PM

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