Maïween and Nadine Labaki: Two Female Directors on the Rise

This year, four of the 20 films in competition during the Cannes Film Festival were directed by women — a record number since the festival started 64 years ago. Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), Julia Leigh (Sleeping Beauty), Naomi Kawase (Hanezu No Tsuki) and Maïween (Polisse) each had films showing at this year’s festival.  While I missed three, I did check out Polisse and Where Do We Go Now. What’d I think?

Polisse, by French director and actress Maïween (who also played the diva in The Fifth Element by the way!), takes a realistic look at police officers in France’s Child Protection Unit. Using twists made famous by HBO’s stand-out show “The Wire,” Polisse shows the similarities between criminals and the police who fight them. It is truthful and sometimes uncomfortable, but also lighthearted and funny.

Polisse stars a line up of popular French actors including rapper Joeystarr, known for his anti-police antics and several run-in’s with the law. As the only actor of color in the movie, his character is the most aggressive and often reprimanded for his uncontrollable temper. I greatly enjoyed Polisse but I could not help but notice this cliché where the one black character has the same, stereotypically anger, issues.  I’m over it.

Check out the trailer:

I also previewed Where Do We Go Now by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, which was part of the festival’s official selection under Un Certain Regard. The film is about a Christian-Muslim village faced with religious conflict and the strength and wisdom of the women who fight to prevent it.  Where Do We Go Now is the second work by Labaki, a former music video director who says that she was inspired to write the script after having her first son and thinking of what she would do as a mother to protect her family. Taking a very serious topic, Labaki mixes the melancholy with music, dance and humor to show the silliness of such unreasonable conflicts and like watching Maiween’s Polisse, I almost cried. Not because it was sad but because it was such a beautiful portrait of female strength and solidarity.

Trailer here:

Here’s an interview that I did with Labaki for the UK-based film channel Cinemoi:

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