There is much to say about the power and potency of CAPERNAUM, Nadine Labaki third film. A prison film in more ways than one, it explores what it is like to be a lost soul, isolated and fragmented by inaction and a lack of care. Zain El Hajj (played with quiet emotional brilliance by Zain Al Rafeea) is arrested after a fight sees him stab someone. On examination, no one knows his age. Not even his family. Who also seem less bothered and decline to care. He feels disconnected from his parents and his being and decides to sue his parents. Dumbfounded by this position, he is asked by a judge as to what end and reason is he doing this. Zain simply states ‘Because I was born…’

The drama in a story like this, could isolate and divide an audience. For many will see the pursuit of a civil action (in American legal terms) as a horrific abuse of parental guidence. However Nadine Labaki, like in her previous films, explores a multifaceted approach. Gleaning not only over the course of a film but over a life, why actions matter. This is not just parental action. This is societal and cultural action. Lebanon is defined by its melting pot communities, share cultural commodities and its intrinsic uniqueness. But CAPERNAUM asks what defines and confines them. How have they paid off to those on the peripherals. Zain Al Rafeea is cast perfectly for the role because of this. He is a blank canvas. He is slight in emotion and it adds gravity to events. Its a film which mediates the life of Lebanon, its heart almost. It also never pulls punches. This is why it works and is such a powerful film.

To steal from its director

At the end of the day, … children are really paying a very high price for our conflicts, and our wars, and our systems, and our stupid decisions, and governments. I felt the need to talk about the problem, and I was thinking, if those children could talk, or could express themselves, what would they say? What would they tell us, this society that ignores them

Capernaum is available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital 29th July’.


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