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Director Mounia Akl’s Costa Brava, Lebanon Starring Nadine Labaki Wins at Toronto International Film Festival

A still from Costa Brava Lebanon. Photo: Courtesy of Mounia Akl

Lebanese filmmaker Mounia Akl has won the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival’s prestigious Netpac award for her debut feature film Costa Brava, Lebanon. The film explores deeper societal issues in Lebanon through the story of a family.

Mounia Akl. Photo: Joe Saade

The film was inspired by Akl’s lifelong fascination with families and the discussions they have. “It is the mirror of a country,” she previously shared with Vogue Arabia. “The screenwriter and the director in me were born out of observing my own. People who I loved and captivated me, as well as people who I realized, throughout the years, were as real as I am. Every character in this movie represents a part of my life.”

Akl faced an uphill battle during the production of the film. “This film faced a lot of obstacles and unfortunately, none of them were creative ones,” she says. “On August 4, after constantly bickering about the finances of the film, the explosion took place. We went from having a creative meeting to picking up the pieces of shattered glass from ourselves and making sure everyone was well and alive.”

Mounia Akl and The cast of Costa Brava Lebanon at the Venice International Film Festival. Photo: Courtesy of Mounia Akl

Despite these obstacles, Akl and the team pushed through and put together a poignant, thought-provoking film. “This is when we realized that what we needed is for all of us to be together and to lift each other up,” she said. “We had a message to deliver and it was our duty to share it with the world. The best decision we made was to go ahead with the shoot.”

Costa Brava, Lebanon had its premiere at the recent 78th Venice International Film Festival and featured Nadine Labaki and Saleh Bakri in principal roles. The film explores the story of the Badri family, who relocate to evade the toxic pollution of Beirut to the mountains, where they are yet again faced with a similar problem when a landfill is built right outside their new home. Recipients of the Netpac award are chosen by jurors from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema, at the Toronto International Film Festival. Previous winners of the award include –1982 by Oualid Mouaness (2019), Gaza mon amour by Tarzan Nasser and Arab Nasser (2020).

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