The Red Sea Film Festival and Variety will be partners on two new awards: the Intl. Vanguard Filmmaker Award, which will go to Nadine Labaki, and the Intl. Vanguard Actor Award, which goes to Ranbir Kapoor.
An actor, director, musician and activist, Labaki has carved a distinctive path on the international film circuit. As a child, she would spend hours at a small theater run by her grandfather, in the dark but never alone, lit by the images flickering on screen. From that young age, Labaki knew that she wanted to pursue filmmaking, though the circumstances of Lebanon’s wartorn 1980s didn’t always make such opportunities apparent.
“There were no films being done at that moment,” she told Variety in 2019. “So when I started dreaming about making a film it was almost impossible.”
After honing her talent directing music videos for local TV and winning international acclaim for her graduation film “11 Rue Pasteur,” Labaki developed her feature debut, “Caramel.”
“[When] we made ‘Caramel,’ we’d been living a few years of calm,” she continued. “So I did my own adventure, in that sense. I invented my own way of making films.”
Labaki’s inaugural feature would focus on five Beirut women, exploring their lives with the warm hues and bittersweet tones as promised by the title. After premiering in Cannes in 2007, the project would become Lebanon’s international Oscar submission — as would the director’s two subsequent works.
2011’s “Where Do We Go Now?” also premiered in Cannes, and would later win the People’s Choice Award in Toronto along with several other festival trophies.
As with all of Labaki’s work, this sophomore feature traced glimmers of light in troubled times, finding humor and heartfelt emotion in the lengths to which a group of women will go in order to shield their community from civil strife and hatred. Upon its worldwide release in 2012, “Where Do We Go Now?” would become the most profitable Arabic film of all time — that is, until Labaki released her follow-up.
Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, and box office heavyweight in terms of global admissions, “Capernaum” was a milestone for the filmmaker and for Arab-language cinema writ large. As it followed a wideeyed refugee across the slums of Beirut, “Capernaum” married realism with childlike wonder, never obfuscating the young lead’s harsh conditions or denying him his own right to innocence.
Speaking at a Venice Film Festival panel in 2020, Labaki could still feel reverberations from her most recent title. “‘Capernaum’ wasn’t just a film for me — it changed me as a person,” she said. “There was a very thin line between fiction and reality and when you do that, people feel the truth. They start taking action.”
“I have always believed in [cinema’s] power,” she continued. “Cinema, and art in general, tackles your emotional chords: whatever story you are telling, it humanizes the problem.”
The scion to Bollywood royalty, Kapoor meanwhile has emerged as a galvanizing force all on his own, winning critical acclaim for his roles in Imtiaz Ali’s “Rockstar” and Anurag Basu’s “Barfi!” As a marquee draw, few in the Hindi industry can surpass the matinée idol who pushed the 2018 Bollywood biopic “Sanju” into the highest reaches of Indian box office history.
And for all that, the 40-year-old actor seems poised to breakout even further as he rides the waves of “Brahmāstra” — a three-part action fantasy saga, directed by Ayan Mukerji, that Kapoor describes as a deeply rooted Hindi riposte to the Marvel juggernaut.
With “Brahmāstra Part One: Shiva” already racking up global admissions — walloping the Indian box office and banking tidy sums in the North American market, where the film has become the highest grossing Hindi title in recent years — and with Parts Two and Three already lined up, Kapoor looks to remain a fixture on international screens for years to come.
“Any film, any good compelling story, made in your culture, in an authentic way, in a true form, will connect to a large audience,” Kapoor told Variety. “So, I believe that ‘Brahmāstra’ is in a great place where we have that opportunity, where a world audience can witness it.”
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