Nadine Labaki interview

The director of Caramel, Nadine Labaki, speaks to marieclaire.co.uk

A former music and videos director in Lebanon, Nadine Labaki, 34, writes, directs and stars in Caramel, the story of a group of women working in a Beirut beauty salon. She plays Layale, who finds herself in the midst of a difficult break-up.

Have you worked in a beauty salon, ever?

Never! I’m just someone who observes a lot. It’s a place that has always fascinated me. A lot of secrets are said behind these closed curtains and doors, and a woman comes here with a lot of hope, thinking she’s going to come out of it feeling more beautiful. It’s a place where there’s a lot of hope. Also, there’s a great sense of bonding between the woman and the person making her become more beautiful. She attaches so much importance to that person who is doing her make-up or hair, and she doesn’t have to be fake. This woman sees you in your nudity and your flaws and your reality – you don’t have to fake anything anymore and you can be yourself very naturally. So you start confiding, telling your secrets and talking about your life, and she becomes like an advisor and a Goddess to you, as she’s the one making you more beautiful.

Can you explain about the ‘caramel’ of the title, which we see being used as a beauty aid…

It’s real caramel. It’s sugar with lemon and water, which you boil together, and it becomes this very tasty paste. And you can’t help but eat it, because it’s sugary and nice. It’s used everywhere in the Middle East. It’s very simple to do, very simple to prepare, and that’s what I did when I started waxing. I used to prepare my own paste. For me, it’s really fascinating. It’s this idea of sugar that burns and becomes bitter and hurts you. This idea of sweet and bitter, this contradiction…

Do you think westerners will be quite surprised by what you show?

They are surprised! Absolutely. That’s the question that they say to me: ‘We didn’t know that you were like that.’ They are surprised that they learnt something new. They saw something that was unexpected. The first thing that comes to their mind, normally, is a very grey image, sad people, and this was the first time they saw colourful people with a very strong will to survive. There’s a warmth and affection between them. And people are surprised that we’re so modern – ‘Oh, we didn’t know you dressed like that and that these women are so beautiful!’ It’s a nice surprise, and it’s good that they’re interested in the Lebanon. Now, many women tell me, ‘Now we want to know more about this country. We want to go there and discover it.’

Caramel opens on 16 May.

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