Capernaum (2018)

Lebanese director Nadine Labaki delivers a powerful story about a 12 year-old boy who takes his parents to court.

A gritty drama shot on the streets of Beirut with a cast of non-professional actors, Capernaum is a howl of protest against social injustice, a film as grounded in a place and time and yet as universal in its empathy with the dispossessed as Bicycle Thieves or Salaam Bombay! If viewers were expecting another gently barbed women’s comedy from Lebanese director Nadine Labaki (Caramel, 2007), it’s time to think again.

Ostensibly, it’s about a young Beirut street kid who takes his parents to court for the crime of bringing him into the world. But within this largely symbolic framing device, the script raises a host of issues, from the invisible status of migrants living in conditions of virtual slavery to the way parents facing grinding poverty are forced to make bad choices for their children, so as not to make worse ones. If it doesn’t tie many (or any) of these thematic strands with a neat bow, that’s in the nature of a film that chooses raw dramatic power over narrative finesse.

Capernaum has the anger, the energy and a galvanising central performance by Syrian migrant child Zain Al Rafeea to move audiences the world over.

Lee Marshall, Screen Daily

  • Orig. title: Capharnaüm
  • Language: Arabic
  • Subtitles: English
  • Distribution: Finnkino
  • Cinematography: Christopher Aoun
  • Editing: Konstantin Bock, Laure Gardette