Nibal Arakji: «My cinema is human»
Her cinema makes us laugh but also cry. Her films are captivating, at the same time liberating. With a magic wand, the scriptwriter, director, actress and founder of the production House Dream Box Productions Nibal Arakji, wonderfully describes the contradictions of society. Engaged artist, she fights for an idea, for a cause, creates emotions, breaks taboos and delivers messages … Good messages. What’s her common denominator? Humanism, which she conveys with humor, without lots of morality. For instance, her film Wanted_Matloubin is a success at the movies. Interview.
How did you come to the world of cinema? I always liked to write. Basically, I was an advertising copywriter. I wrote 30-second commercials, which I later extended to one-and-a-half hour films. My entry into the world of the 7th art is the fruit of this passion for the cinema and for scriptwriting.
What distinguishes your movies from other film productions? It is hard to say that I stand out from other producers. Everyone has his own cinema. Mine is a little human. I appreciate everything related to the human, to the social issues, to this kind of films that I like to write.
Do you think that «satirical» comedy is likely to correct social behavior? I wish that comedy could change a little people’s vision. That’s why we make movies. We have things to say, messages to pass. I try to convey mine with humor and without ever being a moralist. That is my opinion. I try to show the way I see things through my films.
In the movie Matloubin, you have a little too exaggerated, pushing the reaction of the elderly to the extreme. You presented them under a negative aspect, and eager for pleasure only. Don’t you think they needed a different kind of affection? I do not agree with what you say. I did not push the character of the old people in a negative way at all. On the contrary, I gave them a very positive image. People who are active, full of life, who dance, who do lots of things, who are in good shape. Yes, we played a little bit about the fact that there is a relationship between the two of them, but I think it’s pretty good. I mean there is no age to love, you can be 70 or 80 years old and fall in love with someone. It was a funny little wink. I did not show an old man who can barely walk with his cane, who can not speak, or who does not have his dentures, or who does not wash his mouth all week … They are all clean, beautiful, full of life and spirit. I show that indeed these old people want affection, to be taken care of. It’s the old woman waiting at the window for someone to come, for her children to come and see her but who never come. I show that she wants affection. In the same way, the old man whose son speaks to him badly when he wants to see his grandson, he only asks for love and affection. All this has been shown.
You gathered some great TV characters in this film. What do you think of their performance? I purposely brought famous people, better known than my four main actors. I wanted to show faces that the public knew and loved. The reason why I introduced all these «guest appearance» in the film, who are there to balance with the old actors.
Did you encounter any difficulties during the shooting? Which ones? The shooting was very hard. We had a lot of difficulties, especially because we worked with older people. They are less reactive, slow to understand and are less able to learn their text, than a confirmed actor. Moving from point A to point B, and saying the sentence at the same time, all this is much harder than with a younger actor.
How would you evaluate the Lebanese cinema? Is it based on quantity or more qualitative? What is it lacking to reach an international level? I think that Lebanese cinema is evolving well. We have already reached the international level. Two films have been selected at the Oscars and have arrived in Cannes. Lebanese cinema is gaining a place on the world stage.
In 2018, Wanted was selected at the Cairo International Film Festival. How was it received? The film was well received. The film is very human. It’s hard not to like it or if you did not necessarily like it, not to feel anything about these old characters. We all have a dad, a mom, a grandfather and we are all growing up. Personally, I see my parents through this movie. There is no reason for it not to be well received.
Every three years, you produce a feature film. In 2013, the film Ossit Sawani won good prizes. In 2016, you did Yalla 3a2belkon chabeb, and in 2019, Wanted. Which movie had the most effect? And which one is closest to your heart? These films are different. But it’s my style of cinema, the cinema I like to do, the kind of scenario I like to write. The problem is that this kind of movies does not have a lot of spectators, because it’s a drama, it’s pretty black. People like to see a movie and laugh, have fun, they prefer the light style. Such was the case of the film Yalla 3a2belkon chabeb, which made a lot of entries. I can not say which movie is closest to my heart, it’s like if I had to choose among my children which one I prefer.
When will be your future project? I am writing my next film titled Allah Yestor. I hope to shoot it in less than a year. Interview Conducted by Mireille Bouabjian.