About the film
Director: Nadine Labaki
Actors: Yordanos Shiferaw, Zain al RafeeaProving herself an astonishingly accomplished director Nadine Labaki’s (Where Do We Go Now?) journey through the slums of Lebanon thrills with compassion and heart.
The film takes place in Beirut, but the title takes its name from the ancient Israeli fishing town of Capernaum, which in turn became the namesake for a word meaning “disorderly accumulation of objects.” In the slums that Labaki’s characters inhabit, people, especially children, come to be a part of that disorderly accumulation as well.
Winner of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, Capharnaum sees non-professional actors from displaced backgrounds playing out the narrative with poignantly moving authenticity. A young boy, Zain (magnetically portrayed by Syrian migrant Zain al Rafeea), stands up in court in Lebanon. He has already done time for stabbing someone. Now he wants to sue his parents for giving him life. And it’s hard to blame him, even before we get to spend time wallowing in the apathy and abject horror of his daily life. Most of the film takes place in flashback, tracing Zain’s route to jail via the slums of Beirut.
His parents, Souad (Kawthar Al Haddad) and Selim (Fadi Kamel Youssef), appear to be better at having children than looking after them. The kids work instead of going to school and when Zain’s 11 year old sister is sold into marriage it’s all too much and Zain runs away from home. He is taken in and lovingly cared for by an illegal Ethiopian worker, Rahil (Yordanos Shifera, an unregistered Ethiopian refugee herself), who lives in a shanty house with her baby brain-meltingly adorable son, Yonas (Treasure Bankhole, a baby girl in real life). But when Rahil disappears, Zain is suddenly left to fend for himself and her baby, resorting to increasingly desperate measures to survive.
This is an astonishing work of social-realism.
Academy Award Nominee – Best Foreign Language