Labaki’s Cannes win proves art is Le­banon’s weapon

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Just a few months af­ter The In­sult’s Os­car nom­i­na­tion in the Best For­eign Film cat­e­gory, his­tory has been made again for Le­banese cin­ema with Nadine Labaki’s Caphar­naüm earn­ing the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, fol­low­ing a 15-minute stand­ing ova­tion dur­ing its premiere a cou­ple days be­fore.

Cen­tered around 12-year-old Zain, a Syr­ian refugee boy born with­out a birth cer­tifi­cate who de­cides to sue his own par­ents for bring­ing him into the world, the poignant pic­ture was met with rave re­views from crit­ics and ac­knowl­edged by the in­ter­na­tional press as a strong con­tender for the cov­eted Palme d’or.

As a large ma­jor­ity of the Le­banese au­di­ence took to so­cial me­dia to cel­e­brate Labaki be­com­ing the first ever Arab fe­male di­rec­tor to take home a ma­jor prize in the com­pe­ti­tion, the oc­ca­sional pro­pa­ganda voices at­tempted to un­der­mine her na­tional achieve­ment through a se­ries of des­per­ately word ed-for-at­ten­tion tweets, speciously cram­ming mat­ters of mar­tyr­dom, weaponry and re­sis­tance into the re­ac­tion process. It turns out turn­ing away from the realm of fight­ing and fight­ers to breathe in the full­ness of art and artists, even for a lit­tle while, is enough of a pre­text to turn heavy heads in Le­banon. We ought to sur­ren­der the pur­suit of beauty and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion to a ma­nip­u­la­tive cul­ture of sacri­fice and sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion or else we’re traitors, cul­pa­ble cre­ators.

But lit­tle do these elo­quently or­ches­trated voices know that no weapon in his­tory, be it bla­tantly de­struc­tive or faintly jus­ti­fied, could ever stand in the way of Le­banon’s stur­di­est and no­blest weapon, em­bod­ied in the spirit of its art and true artists.

At a time when many have put their trust in weapons to de­fend them against dan­ger, we choose to re­new our trust in art and de­fend it in the face of chronic crit­ics as an eter­nal weapon of love, co­ex­is­tence and eman­ci­pa­tion.

“WE CHOOSE TO RE­NEW OUR TRUST IN ART AND DE­FEND IT IN THE FACE OF CHRONIC CRIT­ICS AS AN ETER­NAL WEAPON OF LOVE, CO­EX­IS­TENCE AND EMAN­CI­PA­TION.”

By Christina Fakhry

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