Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. The film received a 15-minute standing ovation and won the Jury Prize among other awards.
However, Labaki and her husband Khaled Mouzannar, the film producer, as well as the production company Mooz Film are looking at legal action by the prosecutor at the Beirut Court of Appeals on allegations of intellectual property violations and fraud under Article 86 of Law 75/99.
If confirmed, these proceedings do not constitute a conviction but the beginning of an investigation with the presumption of innocence.
It was Lebanon Files that reported on the story on Tuesday. This comes following a complaint filed in May 2022 by Turkish director Andaç Haznedaroglu for plagiarism, four years after the film’s release.
Haznedaroglu accused Labaki of having appropriated the idea of her film Misafir (The Guest), which was shot between Aleppo and Istanbul, and tells the story of the journey of a Syrian girl and other families who fled the war in Syria to Istanbul.
The Guest reportedly came out in 2017. According to the allegations, Haznedaroglu asked Labaki to take part in the movie, but the Lebanese director refused.
Capernaum, a heart-rending production, takes place in the maze of Lebanon’s miserable slum neighborhoods. It explores the story of a 12-year-old Syrian refugee, Zain, who sues his parents for having given birth to him when they were unable to raise him in decent conditions and give him any love at all.
The film also follows the story of Rahil, a migrant of Eritrean origin without papers, who is struggling to raise her infant.
Through these intertwined destinies, Labaki has succeeded in highlighting the great vulnerability of marginalized people and abused children.
Labaki was also successful in showing the arduous struggle for the right to exist. Her objective was not to inspire pity but spark a debate.
L’Orient-Le Jour was not able to reach Haznedaroglu or her lawyer, nor the Beirut Public Prosecutor's Office, which did not respond to requests for comment
L’Orient-Le Jour, however, was able to contact a representative of Labaki, who published a statement to this effect.
“The complaint is purely arbitrary. It came after Caparnaum’s international success for well-known purposes,” the text read.
“Nadine Labaki has not been notified to date of any court decision related to the proceedings mentioned by the press. And yet, some media and social networks have published the information, implying Ms. Labaki’s conviction, in a clear desire to damage her reputation,” the statement added.
In this context, the representative sought to clarify that “any prosecution by the appeal prosecution against Nadine Labaki based on false accusations does not constitute a conviction. Anyone publishing these allegations before the final decision will be liable to prosecution.”
The statement added that “Nadine Labaki has already filed a complaint against Andaç Haznedaroglu before the criminal authorities for slander, insults, and intimidation. The investigation is ongoing. Nadine Labaki reserves the right to use the appropriate means of defense to bring out the truth and stop the related proceedings, as well as legal action. Likewise, she reserves the right to seek redress.”
“Nadine Labaki will take all necessary legal measures against the media and websites, involved, directly or indirectly, in this defamatory campaign that has targeted her for several months, to protect her rights and reputation,” the statement added.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Sahar Ghoussoub.