Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
In the slums of Beirut, hardened 12-year-old Zain (Zain Al Rafeea, amazing) sues his parents for "bringing him into the world." Beginning with that shocking scene, director Nadine Labaki (Caramel, VIFF 07) then flashes back to show the poverty and turmoil that have been a constant in Zain’s life and which have led him to this drastic juncture. Either ignored by his parents or forced by them to engage in a drug-smuggling scheme, Zain finally reaches the breaking point when his parents essentially sell off his beloved 11-year-old sister as a child bride to a sleazy local merchant. Zain takes off. With nowhere to go, he is forced to live on the street until illegal Ethiopian refugee Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), and toddler Yonas (played by one-year-old Boluwatife Treasure Bankole) take him in. His new job as babysitter seems ideal—until Rahil fails to return one day. As Zain and Yonas fend for themselves (you will be asking yourself how the director elicited such an amazing performance from the toddler), Labaki crafts a deeply empathetic melodrama that is as moving as anything you’ll see this year.
"Labaki’s sensational new film… turns the plight of this lad… into a social-realist blockbuster—fired by furious compassion and teeming with sorrow, yet strewn with diamond-shards of beauty, wit and hope… Shot over six months on location in Beirut, Capernaum has the same powers and limitations of postwar neorealist films like De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and Rossellini’s Germany, Year Zero… The result is a film that already feels like a landmark."—Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph
Jury Prize, Cannes 18