Koimoi Recommends Capernaum: The name Capernaum stands for an old city that was doomed to hell by Jesus according to the Book Of Matthew. Taking this very clever and metamorphic title, director Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum is not a subtle commentary on the turmoil, but a loud scream of anger, loud enough to break your heart. This week on Koimoi recommendation Friday we recommend you an Arabic film that talks about the dark world from a 12-year-old boy’s perspective and lifts you up only to throw you on the ground harder. Be ready to get your heart broken by seeing children without the touch of childhood.
Director: Nadine Labaki
Language: Arabic, Amharic.
Available on: Netflix.
Koimoi Recommends Capernaum: Set amidst a turmoil in Beirut, a 12-year-old boy Zain sues his parents and drags them to court. The reason is astonishing, he sues them for giving him birth, for bringing him into a life of disgrace, sufferings and causing them. As the film progresses, you will understand what has led to this little boy take such a drastic step. You see him elope from his house after his parents sell his 11-year-old sister Sahar to their landlord’s son who is almost triple her age.
The course of events land Zain with a illegal African immigrant Rahil and her son Yonas. Rahil has her own struggle, working at a restaurant, she is striving hard to get a permit for her and Yonas so as not to be thrown out from the country or worse torn part from each other. While Rahil, Yonas and Zain create a loving bond, destiny plays its bad game and Rahil is caught. This leaves Zain and toddler Yonas on the streets. Zain’s struggle to protect Yonas and stay alive on the streets full of predators ready to sell these kids in huge amount covers the second half. When Zain returns home one fine day, what happens leads him to the jail.
Capernaum is bold and uneasy, it is not just showing you what puddle these people are living in, it makes you enter it virtually. The film in the very first 15 minutes portrays the dark and heinous place these kids live in – Sahar is being constantly wooed by the landlord and a man tries to seduce Zain and tries to kiss him when he goes to deliver goods to him. Subtlety is not something Labaki is considering at all, rather she is trying to give you the rawest version of it all.
The screenplay shows how the surroundings brings maturity to these kids so early on in their life. These kids at such an adolescent age don’t need an adult to tell them the touch is wrong. Rather they even decode the predator gaze and throw him off by abusing or trying to beat him. It broke my heart to see the children without the touch of childhood.
The best part of the film is when Zain is left with Yonas alone on the streets. Though stuck in disaster, there is an underlined humour to their relationship and it makes its way to our hearts.
Capernaum is not a documentary or a social commentary or someone showing you the other side of the world. It is a loud scream at the situation, the anger that it triggers and the doomed fate that it endorses.
The film has an amazing star cast. First, Zain Al Rafeea who plays Zain, Yardonas Shiferaw who plays Rahil deserve special mention for their acting calibre. The recce and production design is itself a ugly person that takes the uneasiness to next level.
Lebaki’s take on the Lebanese lower class is famous for her last films. But Capernaum made her voice reach across the globe. The film was nominated at the 2018 Oscars and was the winner at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
We recommend you Capernaum completely. Watch it with a strong mind, objective thinking and your heart in the right place. Because nothing in this world is sugar-coated.
Do not forget to tell us your thoughts about the film in the comments section below.