Just a few months after The Insult’s Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Film category, history has been made again for Lebanese cinema with Nadine Labaki’s Capharnaüm earning the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, following a 15-minute standing ovation during its premiere a couple days before.
Centered around 12-year-old Zain, a Syrian refugee boy born without a birth certificate who decides to sue his own parents for bringing him into the world, the poignant picture was met with rave reviews from critics and acknowledged by the international press as a strong contender for the coveted Palme d’Or.
As a large majority of the Lebanese audience took to social media to celebrate Labaki becoming the first ever Arab female director to take home a major prize in the competition, the occasional propaganda voices attempted to undermine her national achievement through a series of desperately-worded-for-attention tweets, speciously cramming matters of martyrdom, weaponry and resistance into the reaction process.
It turns out turning away from the realm of fighting and fighters to breathe in the fullness of art and artists, even for a little while, is enough of a pretext to turn heavy heads in Lebanon. We ought to surrender the pursuit of beauty and beautification to a manipulative culture of sacrifice and sanctification or else we’re traitors, culpable creators.
But little do these eloquently orchestrated voices know that no weapon in history, be it blatantly destructive or faintly justified, could ever stand in the way of Lebanon’s sturdiest and noblest weapon, embodied in the spirit of its art and true artists.
At a time when many have put their trust in weapons to defend them against danger, we choose to renew our trust in art and defend it in the face of chronic critics as an eternal weapon of love, coexistence and emancipation.