DUBAI: There has long been a strong cultural link between Latin America and the Arab world. Hundreds of thousands of people from the Levant have emigrated to Latin America over the past 150 years.
It’s no wonder then that when Lebanese host Louaye Moulayess started working on “Encanto”, Disney’s latest musical, he saw the film’s large and diverse Colombian family as a reflection of his own.
âThe most important thing I have connected with in this project is that I have a very big family in Lebanon,â Moulayess told Arab News. âIt really made me question the relationships I have with my own family, how well I know them and how well they know each of us. With the main character of Mirabel, I couldn’t stop thinking about my older cousin in Lebanon, Louisa. She carries a lot of weight and responsibility. Many characters made me think of each of my own family members and what they are going through. Every character in their family reminded me of one in mine.
Moulayess and his family bonded with Latin American culture some time ago, he explains, thanks to the telenovelas that have proven so popular in the Arab world.
âGrowing up, I remember my parents, my mother and my aunts and I watched a lot of (those) in Lebanon. One of the key songs in the film, ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’, reminds me a lot of those shows, âsays Moulayess.
Part of Moulayess’s job involves filming âreference shotsâ – scenes that act physically in front of the camera so that these performances can be animated to match the movements of each character. Suddenly, Moulayess must get into the head of each character, including the main role of the film, Mirabel.
âObviously, I’m not built like Mirabel. But I had to learn to move like her, even though I always question my acting choices. We had a lot of meetings to make sure we were as truthful and respectful of the culture and the character as possible, âsays Moulayess. âWe must have asked ourselves, ‘Who is she? She’s eccentric, she’s funny, she’s sad, but is she happy? What is going through his mind? I had to go into her head every moment, feel what she is feeling and try to imitate her.
In “Encanto”, Mirabel is the only non-magical member of a magical family, in which each person has a unique ability. As the film focuses on her efforts to find something special within herself, we see how each member of the family has their own identity crises, even ones that seem perfect at first glance.
Each member of the team, each from a different background, found something to connect with, including Tony, Grammy and Emmy-winning songwriter Lin Manuel Miranda, who composed the songs.
âAnyone who grew up in a family understands the tension between the way you see yourself and the way your family sees you, and how that grows and changes over time,â Miranda told Arab News. âIt’s multiplied by your brothers and sisters, and your aunts, and your uncles, and your cousins, and the way you interact with all these people. It’s all meaty to write about. I don’t think there is a person who can go to this movie and not identify with a character on this screen, âsays Miranda.
For the song “Pressure”, about the older sister considered the strongest member of the family, Miranda, director Jared Bush, Moulayess and the rest of the team were each able to find a family member they have. used to understand the character, and, in reverse, this song helped them understand better.
âThis song was both my love letter and my apology to my older sister,â says Miranda. âAs a parent you make all your mistakes on the first child, they always inadvertently carry more responsibility than their younger siblings. Writing from that perspective was pretty amazing. It reflects my sister in the sense that it is. is the toughest exterior in the family, and makes it the most sensitive belly underneath. â
âAll of our research was really our own families,â Bush says. âWe found these archetypes to be true everywhere, like the black sheep of the family, or the golden child, or the manager, or the mom who heals with her food. All of these things seemed very familiar and very relevant to us. Universally, all over the world, we have found these archetypes to be true.
âIt was honestly a joy to write, from start to finish,â says Miranda. âI can’t wait for families everywhere to see themselves reflected on this screen,â says Miranda.