Reader Rating (Rate Here): [Total: 3 Average: 3/5]
Directed By: Nadine Labaki
Cast: Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Kawthar Al Haddad, Fadi Kamel Youssef, Nadine Labaki
Language: Lebanese Arabic, Amharic
Capernaum borrows its name from the biblical ancient town condemned to hell. It symbolizes anarchy, and the town of Beirut on which the movie is based upon captures the essence perfectly. Directed by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, Capernaum is a harrowing tale about a boy and his yearning for love and respect. Fed up of the world he is living in, he sues his negligent parents for bringing him to this world.
Capernaum begins in the modern day Beirut, where Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is serving a five year sentence for an attempted murder. Also, in parallel, he is suing his parents for bringing him into the world. From there on the movie goes into the flashback of all incidents leading up to this mammoth decision. He has abusive parents with no income for daily food or education and are totally negligent of their duties. They even sell their 11 year old daughter to a sleazy grocery store owner. Having had enough of his parents, Zain goes on a run and gets a shelter by an illegal Ethiopian cleaner Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw). Rahil is trying to escape from Beirut and when she doesn’t return from work, Zain takes it upon himself the care of Yonas, Rahil’s infant son.
When I first learned about the premise, it amused me, actually it felt silly. But, when, one by one the conditions unfolded, I felt a lot of empathy for Zain. Zain’s upbringing and surrounding have made him grow up quickly, he has matured beyond his age. He washes his sister’s blood soaked undergarment for the fear she will be wed off. He cons off the entire market with swag to earn money, to take care of Yonas. Zain asks a lot of hard hitting questions which will make your heart go out for him. The scene where his mother informs him about her pregnancy will make you cry. Zain doesn’t want anything but a better place where kids would be loved and not abused. He wants parents to not have kids if they can’t provide a good happy future filled with love and care.
Nadine Labaki has made a touching drama, which through Zain asks lot of questions from society. She has accentuated the misery and the hell Beirut is currently and brought out the details well. The slow motion opening scene with shots of kids smoking in ruins and playing with fake guns made of cardboard and metal sets the tone. Labaki always casts non professional actors often finding people in real neighborhood. Al Rafeea too was discovered on the streets of Beirut by casting director Jennifer Haddad. Labaki’s biggest achievement in the film is getting terrific performances from her younger stars. Zain is outstanding and is the center of focus but also Farah Hasno as Maysoun. There interaction and the budding love story brings a much needed relief from the pain.
Capernaum has its flaws, it is good till it focuses on Zain and his problems. Of course we were drawn to the movie because he was suing but Labaki tried to include various other angles. There was no need to focus on the immigrant crisis or child trafficking. When you bring in a problem but don’t deep dive, there is no emotional connect. That made the movie a bit stretched, which could have been avoided.
Nevertheless, Capernaum is a very important movie, it can be related to by all. It raises important questions which need to be addressed. The last shot of the movie of Zain smiling made me cry and which will be etched in your mind for a long time. Watch it and share your rating above.
Netflix Link : Capernaum
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