Lebanese director, screenwriter, and actor Nadine Labaki is known for tearing down stereotypes and
touching on fundamental issues that have become taboo in a way that has made her one of the most admired filmmakers of her generation in the Arab world.
Religion, war, women’s role in society, and the different challenges that the Lebanese person undergoes in daily life are topics Nadine orchestrates with color and music and in humorous and poetic ways in her movies including the global successes “Caramel” and “Where Do We Go Now?” (Halla La Wen). She is known for achieving authenticity by casting non-professional actors based on their actual human characteristics. “I like to have the impression that whatever is happening is true,” she says.
Nadine Antoine Labaki was born February 18, 1974 in Baabdet to Antoine, a telecommunications engineer, and Antoinette Labaki, a homemaker. Her affinity towards film began at a young age when she and her sister spent many nights watching “literally hundreds of films” together. She always knew that she would end up in the industry.
In 1997, Nadine obtained a degree in audiovisual arts at Beirut’s St. Joseph University where she consistently earned top prizes for her class projects. It was her final student project in college, however, that got her noticed abroad. In 1997, Nadine directed a film called “11 Rue Pasteur,” which won the Best Short Film Award at the Biennale of Arab Cinema at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris) in 1998.
In 1998 she attended a workshop in acting at the Cours Florent in Paris and moved on to direct adverts and many music videos for renowned Middle Eastern singers, for which she won several awards. By age 30, Nadine was already the talk of the creative industries as director of over 50 television ads for high-profile firms, receiving awards for several of them at the annual Phoenix Awards for advertising. It was her unparalleled, highly modern approach to music videos that earned her an international reputation and several awards. She directed music videos for the likes of Nancy Ajram, Nawal Zoghby, Katia Harb and Carole Samaha, believing that “it is every director’s duty to bring out the best in each artist.” Her work earned two back-to-back Murex D’Or “Best Video Clip Director of the Year” awards.
Nadine has been described by her collaborators in cinema as “meticulous,” “demanding,” and even “obsessed” with studying human behavior to come up with original stories. She is a director who makes the viewer both cry and laugh as she portrays Lebanese culture and daily life, with all its quirky details, as she brings her characters to life and highlights the struggles and magic in every human behavior.
In 2007, her film “Caramel,” which she wrote, directed, and played a leading role in, premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and was a commercial success in the summer of that same year. It is a romantic comedy that portrays the life of five women for whom a beauty salon is a safe haven. Together and through the incidents of daily Beiruti life, they search for the answers to questions of life, love, and happiness.
The film collected prizes at many festivals around the world and the industry newspaper Variety named her among 10 Directors to Watch at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2008 the French Ministry of Culture and Communication gave Nadine Labaki the insignia of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters.
In 2010 she directed, co-wrote, and starred in her second feature film “Where Do We Go Now?” (Halla La Wen), an internationally awarded drama which tells the story of Muslim and Christian women who join forces to ease religious tensions and stem the tide of violence in their war-torn village. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the “Certain Regard” category in 2011 and was another international success. It won the Cadillac people’s choice award at the Toronto film festival and was a winner at the Cannes Film Festival, the San Sebastian Film Festival, and the Stockholm film festival. The film was nominated for best foreign film at the Critics Choice Awards in Los Angeles.
Nadine starred in Fox International’s “Mea Culpa” (2014) and in “La Rançon De La Gloire” (2014) directed by acclaimed French director Xavier Beauvois. She also starred in several Lebanese films by other directors, including “Bosta,” by Philippe Aractingi in 2005, “Stray Bullet” (Rsaasa Tayshe), by Georges Hachem in 2010, and the French-Moroccan drama “Rock the Casbah,” written and directed by Laila Marrakchi in 2013.
In 2014 Nadine was one of the segment directors of the Cities of Love anthology film “Rio, I Love You,” which she directed, co-wrote, and starred in opposite Harvey Keitel. She is currently writing her next film, which she plans to shoot at the end of this year.
She has been on the jury of several prestigious film festivals. She was on the jury of the latest Cannes film Festival 2015 in the “Certain Regard” category, and for the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014, Sundance Film Festival in 2013, Venice Film Festival in 2012 (where she was also nominated for the Gucci Women in Film Award), Belgium’s Namur Film Festival (where she was Jury President), and San Sebastian Film Festival.
She is a goodwill ambassador for the Brave Heart Fund of the Children’s Heart Center at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC). She directed and appeared in a TV infomercial ‘This is not a film. This is reality.’ produced as part of Brave Heart’s Congenital Heart Disease awareness campaign.
Nadine is married to Lebanese music composer, songwriter, and producer Khaled Mouzanar and has two children.