Caramel for Best Foreign Language Film
So now, I’m discovering [the story’s] not specific, it’s more universal. I’ve discovered that human nature, human reactions, human emotions are the same everywhere in the world
– Nadine Labaki
Caramel is a 2007 Lebanese film and the directorial debut of actress Nadine Labaki. It tells the story of five women dealing with universal issues such as forbidden love, binding traditions, repressed sexuality, ageing, and duty vs. desire. Considered the most internationally acclaimed and exposed Lebanese film to date, it was Lebanon’s official submission to the 80th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Labaki dedicated Caramel to her own private Beirut, and that’s part of why it is such an interesting film: she chose to steer away from the common portrayal of a war-ravaged place, without making any significant mention of Lebanon’s political problems. Instead, she focused on a group of women trying to live their lives the way they choose to and find happiness and well-being. Everyday women dealing with everyday problems. One of them is a Christian who’s having an affair with a married man; one of them is a Muslim who’s about to get married but doesn’t want her fiancé to find out she is no longer a virgin; one of them is a wannabe actress struggling with aging; one of them is uncomfortable with her lesbian identity; and one of them is sacrificing her life to take care of her elderly sister.
The film’s title symbolically implies the “idea of sweet and salt, sweet and sour”, and those elements are definitely present in the women’s journeys, which are equally deftly explored with tact, humor, warmth and intelligence. They make a very compelling, strong story where Labaki paints an interesting picture of modern women in a conflicted society – one where a lone, unmarried woman can’t even book a hotel room for two without being suspected to be a prostitute – though her captivating, strongly written characters. By exploring female friendship and camaraderie that transcends differences in a very endearing way, she succeeded in making a bitter-sweet, charming – and fairly aesthetically pleasing, where the so pretty images can say so much without having any dialogue in them – comedy-drama that has a very natural feel and amusing humour. The actors’ performances are also very good, and that’s especially note-worthy considering all of them – save Labaki and Adel Karam – hadn’t acted in a film before.