Capernaum

2019 Oscar Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film

R, 126 minutes

 

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 12-year-old Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life. The film 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, Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole), being 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. (2018, Nadine Labaki, Lebanon/France/USA, Arabic and Amharic with English subtitles, 126 min, R)

“Labaki shows us, in granular, street-level detail – using mostly non-professional actors, many of whom are refugees themselves – what life looks like for the unprotected.” — Johanna Schneller, Globe and Mail

“In CAPERNAUM, the heartache of the underprivileged is on such interminable display that you feel the physical hurt in your bones. But the manner in which the filmmaker renders these pains somehow doesn’t feel exploitative or gratuitous — there is a nuanced matter-of-factness even in Labaki’s empathy that prevents it to ever become pity.” — Tomris Laffly, RogerEbert.com

“Capernaum is an immersive film that you can’t shake about a child that everyone else has forgotten.” — Noah Gittell, Washington City Paper


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