GenreComedy, Drama, Romance Music directorKhaled Mouzanar Duration LanguageLebanese Arabic
Release dateMay 20, 2007 (2007-05-20) (Cannes)
August 9, 2007 (2007-08-09) (Lebanon) WriterNadine Labaki (idea), Jihad Hojeily (idea), Nadine Labaki (screenplay), Jihad Hojeily (screenplay), Rodney El Haddad (screenplay) CastNadine Labaki (Layale), Yasmine Al Massri (Nisrine), Joanna Moukarzel (Rima), Gisèle Aouad (Jamale), Adel Karam (Youssef), Sihame Haddad (Rose) Similar moviesStardust, 27 Dresses, Cop Out, License to Wed, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Atonement
Caramel (Arabic: سكر بنات Sekkar banat) is a 2007 Lebanese film — the first feature film by Lebanese director-actress Nadine Labaki. The film premiered on May 20 at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, in the Directors' Fortnight section. It ran for the Caméra d'Or.
Caramel was distributed in over 40 countries, easily becoming the most internationally acclaimed and exposed Lebanese film to date. The story focuses on the lives of five Lebanese women dealing with issues such as forbidden love, binding traditions, repressed sexuality, the struggle to accept the natural process of age, and duty versus desire. Labaki's film is unique for not showcasing a war-ravaged Beirut but rather a warm and inviting locale where people deal with universal issues.
The title Caramel refers to an epilation method that consists of heating sugar, water and lemon juice. Labaki also symbolically implies the "idea of sweet and salt, sweet and sour" and showcases that everyday relations can sometimes be sticky but ultimately the sisterhood shared between the central female characters prevails.
Caramel extrait 1
Caramel revolves around the intersecting lives of five Lebanese women. Layale (Nadine Labaki) works in a beauty salon in Beirut along with two other women, Nisrine (Yasmine Al Masri) and Rima (Joanna Moukarzel). Each one has a problem: Layale is stuck in a dead-end relationship with a married man; Nisrine is no longer a virgin but is set to be married, and in her conservative family pre-marital sex is not accepted; Rima is attracted to women; Jamale (Gisèle Aouad), a regular customer and wannabe actress, is worried about getting old; Rose (Sihame Haddad), a tailoress with a shop next to the salon, is an old woman who had devoted her life to taking care of her mentally unbalanced elder sister Lili (Aziza Semaan), but has found her first love. The film does not refer to any of the political problems or recent warfare that has troubled Lebanon. Rather, Labaki's tale paints everyday people with everyday problems.
Nadine Labaki as Layale
Adel Karam as Youssef (The policeman)
Yasmine Al Masri as Nisrine
Joanna Moukarzel as Rima
Gisèle Aouad as Jamal
Sihame Haddad as Rose
Aziza Semaan as Lili (Rose's older sister)
Fatmeh Safa as Siham (mysterious lady with long hair to whom Rima gets attracted)
Ismail Antar as Bassam (Nisrine's fiancé)
Fadia Stella as Christine
Dimitri Staneofski as Charle
Labaki chose to cast mostly non-professional actors.
The shooting of Caramel ended just nine days before the Israel-Lebanon war erupted in July 2006 and was released in Cannes exactly one year after the shooting began. An old clothes shop in the Gemmayzeh area of Beirut District was transformed into a salon where the filming of the movie took place. Caroline Labaki, Nadine's sister, was the costume designer. The music was composed by Khaled Mouzanar. Shortly after the movie release, Labaki married him.
Critical reception and box office
The film received critical acclaim. As of 3 July 2009, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 92% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 67 reviews with the general consensus being "Caramel is both an astute cultural study, and a charming comedic drama from a talented newcomer." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 70 out of 100, based on 17 reviews.
As of 18 May 2008, the film has grossed a little over $1 million in the US although it was a very limited release. Internationally, it has amassed a little over $14 million, making it a very profitable foreign film. It was released on DVD in the United States on 17 June 2008.
Awards and nominations
The film was Lebanon's official submission to the 80th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Directors' Fortnight selection 2007.
San Sebastian Film Festival Youth Award 2007.
San Sebastian Film Festival TCM Audience Award 2007.
San Sebastian Film Festival Sebastiane Award 2007.
Abu Dhabi Black Pearl for Best Actress for Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisele Aouad, Siham Haddad and Asiza Semaan during the Middle east International film festival 2007.
Variety Middle East Filmmaker of the Year for Nadine Labaki during the Middle East International film festival 2007.
Best Feature Film, Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2007.
Achievement in Directing for Nadine Labaki, Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2007.
Performance by an Actress for Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisele Aouad, Siham Haddad and Aziza Semaan, Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2007.