Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Written by Rodney El Haddad, Jihad Ojeily and Nadine Labaki
Directed by Nadine Labaki
Starring Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Elmasari, Joanna Moukarsel and Gisele Aouad

Lebanon’s official submission for last year’s foreign language Oscar, CARAMEL, opens with waves of sugary goodness folding in and around itself. It is so enticing, so tempting. You just know it’s delectably delicious and the film that follows allows you to devour every bite without a single ounce of guilt. What you don’t know before you dive in is that this particular sweetness serves a functional purpose as hair removal product. And so the title outlines the film itself. CARAMEL tells the story of five Lebonese women in Beirut in a variety of compromising positions that might not be considered compromising at all if they lived outside of Lebanon. While it may at first seem like a “Sex and the City” derivative, CARAMEL quickly reveals a textured depth that doesn’t tie itself in a pretty designer bow before the credits roll.

Nadine Labaki is CARAMEL’s sweet, soothing center. The relatively new actress also co-wrote and directed the film. While this can sometimes mean more ego than excellence, Labaki shows immense promise, weaving just the right blend of sensitivity, saccharine and savvy into this first feature. Sadly, the DVD does nothing substantial to bring us any closer to this fresh face or her perceptive approach to the Lebanese female experience. A brief interview attempts to do so but ultimately reveals more about the interviewer’s Amerocentric perspective than Labaki’s. The rest of the supposed goodies (a French-only “making of” and a festival tour diary) are essentially musical montages that disclose nothing about the actual production.

The special features do nothing to enrich CARAMEL’s flavour but the film itself is the perfect eye candy. While it leaves a scrumptious taste in your mouth that satisfies long after you’re done, it’s savory sweetness will linger unexpectedly in your heart and mind.



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