In a moment of immense pride for Arab cinema, Lebanese director and actor Nadine Labaki has been announced as a jury member for the 80th Venice International Film Festival. Running from August 30 to September 9, the festival will be taking place at the Lido di Venezia, an island in the Venetian lagoon.
The filmmaker will be joined by French Cesar-winning actor and producer Elsa Zylberstein, Mexican actor and Oscar nominee Yalitza Aparicio, British-Nigerian screenwriter Misan Sagay, and Italian director Stefano Savona to serve as jury members for the Impact Award. In a first for a major film festival, the award is mainly focused on impact. According to Variety, the jury will assess the films’ artistic creativity, their relevance in the global political climate, their potential to challenge audience perspectives on the issues presented, and their potential to inspire audiences to take action.
It is no surprise that Labaki has been chosen to serve on the jury for an award that hopes to highlight impactful films. The Oscar-nominated director has managed to create an oeuvre featuring political issues such as war, feminism, and poverty while painting a soulful snapshot of everyday Lebanese life. In a previous interview with Vogue Arabia, the 49-year-old said, “Any act that you do, when you express a certain frustration, need, position, of how the world is functioning is political.” She added, “As an activist, or “cinema engagé”(social justice filmmaking), you are engaged in people’s life. You want to ask questions, find answers. Make this world a better place!”
The Cannes Jury Prize-winning director will also be a jury member for the Platform program at the 48th Toronto International Film Festival. With the aim of celebrating unique directorial perspectives, the 10 films in the program are eligible for the Platform Prize, an award of 20,000 CAD. “I am delighted to announce that we have an international dream jury with acclaimed filmmakers Barry Jenkins, Nadine Labaki, and Anthony Shim as jury members for the Platform program at TIFF,” said Anita Lee, Chief Programming Officer at TIFF. “Together, they represent the bold and independent spirit of the Platform Prize.”
When it comes to understanding what Labaki looks for in a film her past conversation with Vogue Arabia might be helpful. “I expect a movie to move me, to shake me. I really hope to come out of it changed: with a new subject, empathizing with the characters, learning new things, learning about other people’s struggles,” she said. “I expect a lot from these two hours. Because I think we live in a time where every minute is precious. You need to be a multitasker and these two hours are precious. I am not watching a movie as a filmmaker, I watch a movie as a human being who wants to learn things as when you go to a museum.”