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 as he journeys from gutsy, streetwise child to hardened 12-year-old “adult”: fleeing his negligent parents, surviving through his wits on the streets, taking care of Ethiopian refugee Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw) and her baby son Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole), being jailed for a crime, and finally, seeking 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.