Capernaum – Review
by Wesley Kirkpatrick
Heart-wrenching, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars, a cast comprised of mainly un-trained actors and incredible cinematography. No, the film in question is not Roma but Nadine Labaki’s latest film Capernaum, which follows 12-year-old Lebanese boy Zain El Hajj (Zain Al-Rafeea) who is suing his parents for neglect, or in his own words, “for bringing him into this world”, whilst serving a five-year sentence. Through the use of recurring flashbacks, in the same style as in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, we follow the events that lead our main actor to the impending court case.
When asked how she came to name the film, Nadine Labaki told a story about how when she began writing the script, she wrote down all the themes onto a board and suddenly went, “C’est un Capernaum”, meaning “It’s hell”, or “it’s chaos”. Everything about this film would appear chaotic at first sight, from its plot to the lack of experience of its cast. However, this film is a testament to the incredible skills of its director Nadine Labaki. Through her incredible directing she provides the perfect setting for child actor Zain Al-Rafeea to shine, a boy who was illiterate before the shooting began. Alongside Alfonso Cuarón with Roma, Nadine Labaki is one of the rare directors who succeeds in creating a perfectly balanced film using unexperienced actors to generate added authenticity.
Overall, Capernaum paints a heart-wrenching picture of poverty, neglect, child abuse and refugee crisis. It reminds us of the injustice that is that of a child being robbed of his childhood, bearing the toll from its parents’ mistakes and paying a heavy price for matters out its hands. If Roma and Netflix proved anything, its that a broad audience can enjoy a foreign language movie. Therefore, there are no more excuses to be made to avoid such a breath-taking film as Capernaum simply due to the presence of subtitles.