Nadine Labaki’s debut venture Caramel is an enchanting film about women in Lebanon.  Set in a beauty salon in Beirut, which becomes a space for love, to regain strength from loss, and sharing laughter for a group of women, the film explores the lives of these women trapped between tradition and modernity, the past and the present, and between doing what they want to do and what is expected from them, while also highlighting the sisterly friendship and warmth these women share and their joys & dilemmas, which are universal in their tendency and come across to us as familiar conflicts that most of us live with, every moment.

Protected from the scrutiny of the outside world, Layale, Nisrine, Rima, Jamale and Rose deal with questions related to extra marital affairs, lost loves and secret longings. They share their troubles, dilemmas and all those unspoken fears – Layale, 2008_caramel_an unmarried woman having an affair with a married man, feels a conflict between her obsession like tendency towards her lover and a strain of resistance that reminds her continually that she is going against the traditional values she was raised with {Self-deception}. While Nisrine, Nisrine_caramelrelatively a younger woman, fears her fiancé will find out that she is no longer a virgin and tries to work out a solution that does not destroy her chances for marriage {Being Non Virgin}. Rima Rimacan not communicate her attraction towards women, and is afraid of it {fear of being considered as an Unconventional young woman with abnormal tendencies}. Jamale, a divorced actress who is insecure about her age, struggles through her need to keep up with the younger women around her, because in a society where women’s appearances determine their fortune, she knows that she will soon have no worth {Haunted by the fear of redundancy}.caramelpic

Their problems are personal and political, as Nadine, the film maker says  – in a society tightly bound by rules and taboos.

There is also the touching story of two sisters, Lily and Rose {Irrepressible Hope}. Rose has always kept her older sister as the top most priority, and now at 65 has to let love pass her by again. Her older sister Lily picks up pieces of paper from the streets hoping they are letters from a soldier she was in love with as a young woman. Caramel explores their love stories with utmost  sensitivity, and gently suggests it’s never too late to fall in love, and never too long to wait.

The film’s title refers to the paste for removing unwanted hair in the Middle East, a blend of sugar, lemon juice and water that is boiled until it turns into caramel. But it is also, according to Nadine Labaki, an idea of sweet and salt, sugary and sour, of the delicious sugar that can burn and hurt you. Bittersweet and affectionate, Caramel is an exceptional version of a woman’s world

Labaki who plays Layale, the protagonist in the film, describes the filmmaking process:

“The film came from personal questioning I have about Lebanese women [who] are an example of emancipation, of liberty, of independence for other regions in the Middle East. Lebanese women are really doing what they want in their lives. But at the same time, there is this struggle with their traditions, their religion, and their education. It is still a little bit rigid. So it is a struggle between these two worlds.

“When you think about Beirut, normally you see a grey picture, you see smoke, you see buildings that are destroyed, you see women crying in the street. This is what comes to your mind when you see the word Beirut. And I wanted to change that. I wanted to make a film that was colorful and about warm people, because this is also our reality. I think I come from a generation that doesn’t want to look back, that doesn’t want to talk about war anymore. It wasn’t easy in my case, because I finished the shoot and a week later the war broke out again. So I had a huge feeling of guilt. Why was I making a film about life when my country was at war? But then I thought maybe this was my way of struggling, of resisting: making films about life [in a time of war].