Lebanon has received its second Oscar nomination in as many years with film director Nadine Labaki making history as the first Arab woman to be nominated for the best foreign language film.
Labaki is the only female director among the five nominees and represents Lebanon a year after fellow compatriot Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult was nominated.
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Her film, Capernaum, which means chaos, was met with critical acclaim having been previously nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
“It’s a national pride,” Labaki told The Associated Press. “Lebanon doesn’t have a real cinema industry in the real sense of the term. With our first nominee last year and this one this year, it’s a big step.
“We have always thought as Lebanese people that unfortunately nothing is possible because we always thought Lebanon is a very small country and we have always felt that we are almost invisible on the map,” she said.
Last year, Labaki also made history for being the first female Arab director to win the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, a major award in the competition. The premiere screening of Capernaum during the festival received a 15-minute standing ovation.
Set against the backdrop of the Middle East’s growing refugee crisis, the film is about a 12-year-old Lebanese boy who sues his abusive parents in court for the “crime” of giving him life, and follows his struggle living on the streets.
The film featured first-time actor Zain al-Rafeea, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee whose family was displaced from Syria in 2012. Labaki’s husband, Khaled Mouzanar, produced and composed the film.
Speaking about the message she hoped people would take from the movie’s success, Labaki said, “anything is possible, it doesn’t matter where you come from, where you are born.”
“You just have to believe in your dream,” she said.
Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey told her 42 million followers on Twitter that Capernaum would be “really worthy of their time”.
“Story of a young boy who sues his parents for having children they can’t take care of – makes you think of all the children for whom this story is a daily reality. Bravo team #Capernaum,” Winfrey wrote.
The 91st Academy Awards ceremony airs on February 25 in Los Angeles.
Capernaum faces stiff competition from Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron’s autobiographical masterpiece Roma, which has been nominated for a total of 10 Oscars.
Five movies about individuals and families confronting social and historical tumult are competing in the Academy Awards’ race, including Capernaum and Roma, along with German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s artist biopic Never Look Away, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s subtle family story Shoplifters, and Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski’s 20th-century romance, Cold War.
“[The] other four nominated titles in the category are absolutely amazing and strong, and I’m proud that Shoplifters is selected among them,” Hirokazu said in a statement.
Another Arab director, Syrian Talal Derki, has also been nominated for his film Of Fathers and Sons in the best documentary feature category.