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Posts tagged as Lebanon

Making ‘Capernaum’ was a duty: Oscar contender Labaki

BEIRUT (AFP) – For Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki, whose social-realist epic “Capernaum” is an Oscar contender for best foreign film, the toughest battle is only just beginning.
Her heart-wrenching story of poverty and survival in Beirut’s wretched underclass won a 15-minute standing ovation and the Jury Prize in Cannes last year.
A former election candidate in Beirut, Labaki now hopes an Academy Award will not only complete the film’s impressive harvest of distinctions but also boost its impact at home.So the conversation is starting now and that was my aim, to create this shock, and to create this debate, Labaki told AFP in her Beirut office.
The 45-year-old has arguably become Lebanese culture’s most prominent export and she is bent on making good use of her growing celebrity.I feel it like a duty, it’s not a choice even, and this is what we’re going to start doing, very, very soon: show the film to the government and organise these round tables with judges and lawyers, she said.
Maybe it’s going to have a big influence and maybe it won’t, but we have to try, Labaki said.The film has already changed the lives of its cast members, many of whom were experiencing the same struggles as their characters during the gruelling six-month shoot.Capernaum follows the travails of Zain, a malnourished boy who runs away from his family when his 11-year-old sister Sahar is sold into marriage.He is sheltered by an undocumented African worker named Rahil and ends up looking after her baby boy Yonas when she is arrested and jailed.The parallels between the film’s script and what happened to the actors in real life are uncanny.No make believe’ Baby Yonas’s on-screen and real-life mothers were arrested together during filming and both were in jail when the scenes of the two children being left to their own devices in the streets of Beirut were being shot.In the film, Zain keeps dreaming that he will one day escape his misery and move to Sweden.The Syrian refugee child who plays Zain’s character was recently resettled by the United Nations in Norway, where he now lives with family in a house overlooking the sea.
I don’t know why those things kept happening, maybe because the script was inspired by so much reality that it was actually bound to happen, Labaki said.Zain is now going to school as are his parents as well as several other of the film’s children.Capernaum has already achieved new milestones for Lebanese cinema and received glowing endorsements from media mogul Oprah Winfrey and others.Some critics however argued the film was unsubtle in rubbing the viewer’s nose in social squalor, telling the audience when to smile and when to cry.
But restraint, Labaki retorts, is just not in her culture.It’s as if people, especially critics, want all cinemas coming from all parts of the world to look the same way, she said.Let each country bring its own identity.It’s really very hurtful to hear words like poverty porn’ or emotional manipulation’, Labaki said.
Especially when there’s no big make believe in the film, everything that is in the film is a reality.The activist in her wanted to jolt her audience into action and mobilise decision-makers in Lebanon, a country where Syrian refugees account for a quarter of the population but where faith in the government is rock-bottom.
People come to me in tears, people say You changed me forever’, I’m not looking at the child I see under the bridge every day in the same way’, I want to do something about it’, How can we help?’, Labaki said.She said an Oscar on February 24 would further increase her chances of making a difference.

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Ex-Mossad Chief Secretly Visited Saudi Arabia in 2014 – Israeli Channel 13

The former leader of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad visited Saudi Arabia in secret in 2014, in an effort to rally support against Iranian influence, Israel’s Channel 13 News revealed on Tuesday evening.The dispatch is the latest to come from a report on covert efforts between Israel and the Gulf countries to normalise security and diplomatic ties over recent years, as Tel Aviv presses for open ties with its Gulf allies at a Middle East summit in Warsaw today.
The report revealed that the then-chief of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, made a behind-the-scenes visit to the Saudi capital where he met with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, King Abdullah’s special envoy to discuss the Iranian issue shortly after the nuclear deal was signed between Iran and the major powers, bringing to end the sanctions that had crippled the Islamic Republic for decades.The meeting was unprecedented due to the fact that until that point, Saudi officials had only met with Israeli officials in a third country, refusing to host them themselves.The report, quoting unidentified Western diplomats, said that by the end of 2013, following the signing of the interim nuclear deal, there was a major breakthrough in relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.The report comes as Netanyahu suggested at an anti-Iran summit in Warsaw on Wednesday that he would make public Israel’s covert normalisation of ties with many Gulf states.With the exception of Egypt and Jordan, who have signed treaties with Israel, no other Arab state has official direct relations with Tel Aviv. However a series of under-the-table deals and alliances are gradually being unearthed.
The ultra-conservative kingdom, concerned about international rapprochement with its regional nemesis, reportedly decided to ally with Israel, who is equally opposed to any move that will enable the strengthening of Iranian influence.Israel and Iran consider each other their primary enemy, while Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the wider region.Bandar bin Sultan is believed to have developed the sharing of Saudi and Israeli intelligence during his tenure as director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, before he became King Abdullah’s envoy and adviser.These ties have accelerated since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince and de facto ruler, as he has also been developing an anti-Iranian front to include Hizballah and Lebanon.
Channel 13’s report also reveals how a Saudi proposal to lead peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians amid the 2014 Gaza War was rejected by Netanyahu, to the Saudis’ bitter dismay.The report comes as the Saudi monarch reaffirmed his support for a future Palestinian state.Meeting with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, King Salman said his country “permanently stands by Palestine and its people’s right to an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital”, reported the official Saudi Press Agency.The pledge comes as the United States is expected to offer hints of its proposals for peace between Israel and the Palestinians at a conference on Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland.

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