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Lebanon gets Oscar nod for Nadine Labaki's Capernaum

Lebanese director Nadine Labaki's film Capernaum is competing for the 2019 Academy Award for best foreign language film
Labaki is the first female Arab filmmaker to win a major prize at the Cannes Film Festival (AFP/File photo)

Lebanon has received its second Oscar nomination in as many years in the best foreign language film category, as Nadine Labaki's Capernaum was chosen as one of five finalists for the Academy Award.

The other nominations in that category, unveiled on Tuesday, are Polish film Cold War, Germany's Never Look Away, Mexican film Roma and Japan's Shoplifters.

The winner will be announced at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on 24 February.

"Thank you to everyone who supported us on this wonderful journey," read a message posted on Capernaum's Twitter page Tuesday morning.

"The next chapter starts today!"

Capernaum tells the story of Zain, a 12-year-old who takes his impoverished parents to court in order to stop them from having more children.

Using intimate, close-range shots, Labaki depicts the series of unfortunate events that brought the child to court, from poverty to the refugee crisis, child marriage and the struggles of migrant workers, among other critical challenges in Lebanese society.

In one scene, the boy poses as a Syrian refugee to receive aid from a humanitarian organisation.

Ironically, the character is played by Zain al-Rafeea, 14, whose family moved to Lebanon in 2012 after being displaced by the war in Syria.

Last year, Capernaum won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, making Labaki the first female Arab filmmaker to win a major prize in the competition.

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The film has also earned the praise of critics and celebrities in the United States.

AO Scott, the New York Times' leading movie critic, called the film a "sprawling tale wrenched from real life" that "goes beyond the conventions of documentary or realism into a mode of representation that doesn’t quite have a name".

Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey told her 42 million followers on Twitter that Capernaum would be "worthy" of their time.

"Story of a young boy who sues his parents for having children they can’t take care of. Makes you think of all the children for whom this story is a daily reality. Bravo team #Capernaum," she wrote.

This is the second year in a row that a film from Lebanon has been nominated for the Oscars' best foreign-language film award.

Last year, Lebanese film The Insult by director Ziad Doueiri was also nominated in that category, but Chile's A Fantastic Woman ultimately won the award.