Director: Nadine Labaki
2018, Lebanon, 119 minutes, R
Arabic, Amharic. Subtitled in English.
Cast: Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Nadine Labaki’s CAPERNAUM (“Chaos”) tells the story of Zain (Zain al Rafeea), a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life. CAPERNAUM follows Zain, a gutsy streetwise child as he flees his negligent parents, survives through his wits on the streets, takes care of Ethiopian refugee Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw) and her baby son, is jailed for a crime, and finally, seeks justice in a courtroom.
CAPERNAUM was made with a cast of non-professionals playing characters whose lives closely parallel their own. Following her script, Labaki placed her performers in scenes and asked them to react spontaneously with their own words and gestures. When the non-actors’s instincts diverged from the written script, Labaki adapted the screenplay to follow them.
While steeped in the quiet routines of ordinary people, CAPERNAUM is a film with an expansive palette: without warning it can ignite with emotional intensity, surprise with unexpected tenderness, and inspire with flashes of poetic imagery. Although it is set in the depths of a society’s systematic inhumanity, CAPERNAUM is ultimately a hopeful film that stirs the heart as deeply as it cries out for action.