By Weedah Hamzah
Beirut - Despite the political turmoil that has paralyzed Lebanon's economy, Lebanese filmmakers Nadine Labaki and Danielle Arbid have paved their way to the Director's Fortnight section of the upcoming 60th Cannes Film festival.
Another section, Tous Les Cinemas Du Monde, will showcase a day- long, mini festival of Lebanese films to illustrate the country's cinematic strength and the role of history in domestic film production.
Directors Nadine Labaki and Danielle Arbid earned the privilege for their films Caramel (Sukar Banat) and Un homme perdu (A lost man).
Labaki (pictured right), a well-known actress and music video director, finished her feature film Caramel, a comedy, just nine days before Israel launched its 33-day war against Lebanon on July 12, 2006.
'In a sense, I wanted the Israeli people to see the film and understand what kind of people we are,' Labbaki was quoted as saying.
'Caramel' tells the story of five Lebanese women from different generations and religious backgrounds who meet in a Beirut beauty salon. They use the 'Caramel' in the title to wax their legs.
The feature film concentrates on the five women. Layal, played by Nadine Labaki, works in the beauty salon in Beirut along with three other women. Each one has a problem: Layal has an affair with a married man, Nisrine, a Christian is set to wed a Muslim, Rima is lesbian and Jamal frets about growing old.
The film was produced by French producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint's Les Films des Tournelles with a budget of 1.2 million euros (1.6 million dollars).
The Arab TV network ART, Lebanese distribution company, Sabbah Media, were also contributors and are responsible for distributing the film across the Middle East.
'I think Labbaki will encourage other Lebanese filmmakers to produce more Lebanese films, and enhance the film industry after a long setback following the Civil War in 1975,' said Sadek Sabbah, the manager of Sabbah Media.
'We want to make sure Caramel is well distributed because we think all Arabs who love Lebanon and know Lebanese society well, will enjoy watching it,' Sabbah said and described Labbaki as 'a talented-perfectionist director.'
He expressed hope that people like Labbaki would help revive Lebanon's film industry and bring it to the forefront once again.
Danielle Arbid (pictured right), scriptwriter and journalist, is another Lebanese director whose film Un homme perdu is showing in the Director's Fortnight section also. The film evolves around a French photographer who travels the world researching extreme experiences.
Along the way, he meets with a mysterious, solitary man who disappeared from Lebanon 17 years earlier.
Arbid's feature film debut entitled In the Battlefields (Maarek Hob), tells the story of a young girl named Lina and her fascination with Sihan, her aunt's rebellious maid. The movie deals with growing up in wartorn Beirut in a dysfunctional family that falls apart in the midst of war.
Close friends of Arbid said she fled Lebanon during the civil war and has lived in Paris since then. While Arbid never studied film at school, she draws her inspirations from everything she observes, they said.
Arbid's films make some powerful statements about the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War even though she now resides in France.
Most of Arbid's films are usually financed by French, Belgian and German companies. They are described as well financed and beautifully edited with high quality audio and video.
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