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Cannes 2011: Nadine Labaki

The Lebanese actress and director talks about the influence of war on her second feature, 'Where Do We Go Now?', the eagerly anticipated follow up to 'Caramel'

Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki appeared at this year's Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of her new film 'Where Do We Go Now?', the follow up to her successful debut 'Caramel'. Blending humour and tragedy Labaki's latest film is about an isolated village in the Middle East which has seen years of conflict between its Muslim and Christian communities. After a period of calm tensions begin to rise again after a series of provocations from an unknown trickster. In a final attempt to keep the peace the village's women band together and devise increasingly drastic and hilarious schemes to prevent things slipping into war. Nadine Labaki, a glamorous presence at this year's festival, spoke to Dazed in Cannes about the making of the film.

Dazed Digital: How does it feel to be back at Cannes?
Nadine Labaki: I'm very happy to be here once again because it's not easy to make films in Lebanon. There's no film industry, there's no film structure; we never know where what we are doing stands. So when you are appreciated in a festival it's a stamp of quality for what you are doing and it gives you confidence to keep going.

DD: It must have been daunting making your second film after the success of Caramel...
Nadine Labaki: It's challenging for me because I didn't want to repeat myself; I wanted to make something better than Caramel. I try to be true to myself first of all. I wanted to make a film that is very personal. I usually wait for a theme to become an obsession. That's maybe why I waited so long, 4 years, to make my next film. In these 4 years I was busy with my pregnancy, my son, and then things happened in Lebanon; events led to a new conflict and all of a sudden people were on the streets killing each other because they belong to different religions. I found it completely absurd. I thought if my son was now a young man, how far would I go as a woman to stop him taking a weapon into the street? How far would I go? This is how the story of the film was born, it became about a group of women trying to protect their men and trying to avoid the war in their village.

DD: The film has many humorous parts but also moments of great tragedy, was it difficult to find the right balance between the two?
Nadine Labaki: It was a challenge. Everybody was a little bit sceptical - is she going to succeed in achieving both? But I do this very naturally, so it wasn't a challenge for me in the sense that this is how I feel it. The way we tend to laugh about our misery is something that I'm used to because in Lebanon, or in this part of the world, life is a continuous drama. I was born with the war and there is still war and we have still not succeeded in finding peace. I don't know one person or one woman who hasn't had drama in her life related to war. I see this in their eyes, I see this huge tragedy and I see every time how we try to laugh about our misery because it's the only way to survive, and I wanted to convey this in the film.

DD: The film includes lots of singing and dancing - how did these scenes come about?
Nadine Labaki: I'm somebody who loves musicals and I love to express myself through dancing. I love this sort of expression I think it's even bigger than expressing yourself in words. I wanted to express these women, the cry of these women, in a very powerful way.

DD: Have you found it difficult being a female film director in Lebanon?
Nadine Labaki: I've never found the difficulty of my job related to the fact that I am a woman. It's a hard job, it's a difficult job for anyone - being a filmmaker, being a leader and leading a team and trying to manage everything, it's not easy. Especially as I work most of the time with non professional actors so I need to adapt to each and everyone's personality. Even though I come from a country where you would think it is difficult for a woman, it's a very free country. Of course we still have a lot of issues to solve but women are expressing themselves more and more easily.