Lebanese director wins Cannes jury prize

Nadine Labaki, along with Zain Al-Rafeea, shows the jury prize award for ‘Capernaum’ at Cannes on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2018
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Lebanese director wins Cannes jury prize

  • Labaki took six months to make “Capernaum,” which relied on amateur actors.
  • “Shoplifters,” directed by Japanese filmmaker Hizokazu Kore-eda, was awarded the Palme d’Or.

CANNES, France: Lebanese director Nadine Labaki won the Cannes jury prize on Saturday for “Capernaum” — her devastating portrayal of poverty in Beirut.

The film, set among the city’s poor, left audiences in tears with a breathtaking performance by Zain Al-Rafeea, a 13-year-old Syrian refugee boy.

Labaki had been tipped to become only the second woman to win the Palme d’Or, but the jury, led by Cate Blanchett, awarded that honor to “Shoplifters,” directed by Japanese filmmaker Hizokazu Kore-eda.

The winners were announced during the Cannes closing ceremony after one of the strongest festivals for Arab films in decades.

Labaki took six months to make “Capernaum,” which relied on amateur actors. Zain plays a boy of the same name who runs away from home after his desperate mother and father sell his 11-year-old sister into marriage for a few chickens. 

He then takes his parents to court for having brought him into the world.

Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” the highest-profile American film in competition at Cannes, was awarded the grand prize. The film ignited the French Riviera festival with its true tale of a black police detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. 

Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters” is about a small-time thief who takes a young girl home to his family after seeing scars from abuse. The family decide to keep the girl and raise her as their own.

 

 


West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

Updated 20 June 2018
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West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

  • The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle.”
  • The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.

LONDON: London theatergoers used to spectating in comfort are in for a rude awakening after the authors of a play swapped the traditional plush velvet seating for wooden benches and covered the floor with soil to simulate the feel of a migrant camp.
The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle,” whose authors hope their play will stoke debate about migration.
“People often hold strong opinions about this subject because it doesn’t seem to have any immediate answer,” said Joe Murphy, 27, who co-wrote the play.
“Discussion is the only think that is going to get us forward ... and hopefully this play can provide some of that space for debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Co-author Joe Robertson said the pair had “tried to depict both the terrible conditions that existed in the Jungle camp, but also the hope that existed in that place.”
Up to 10,000 people seeking ways to reach Britain used to live in the giant slum before it was cleared by authorities in late 2016.
Immigration remains a major political issue across Europe, as well as in the United States, where the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border has caused an international outcry.
Several European leaders including those of France, Germany, Italy and Austria are to hold talks on Sunday to explore how to stop people from moving around the European Union after claiming asylum in one of the Mediterranean states of arrival.
Murphy and Robertson, 28, based the script on their experience as volunteers in Calais, where they ran a temporary theater within the camp.
The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.
“There were 25 different nationalities of people all forced to live side by side often on top of each other and the phenomenal story about that place was people did make an effort to come together,” said Robertson.
Theatre-goers are invited to seat at the tables of the camp’s makeshift Afghan café, where the action unfolds.
“The closer you are to the audience the better the message is delivered,” said actor Ammar Hajj Ahmad, who plays one of the leading characters.
Ahmad, from Syria, is one of many actors from a refugee background featured in the play. Several asylum-seekers the authors met in Calais are also part of the cast.
“I am proud of this, I love telling stories ... about the many people who lived in Calais,” said cast-member Mohamed Sarrar, a musician from Sudan who arrived in Britain two years ago.
The play, which premiered at another London theater The Young Vic, last year, runs from July 5 to November.