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Bishops Castle Film Society

Capernaum - 6th November 2019


Nadine Labaki, Lebanon, 2018, 126m

Capernaum (translated from the Arabic as ‘Chaos’) is an immersive film about refugee children struggling to exist in the neglectful, chaotic world they inherit, where they lack the documentation required by bureaucracy and there are no systems of support. Prior to filming, Labaki spent three years in Beirut working with the street children who appear in the film. Zain al Rafeea, who plays the main character (also called Zain), is himself a Syrian refugee who at the time of filming had spent eight of his twelve years living in poverty in Beirut. To shoot the film, Labaki created situations which would allow the children to behave naturally and spent two years editing the footage to work it into the narrative. The film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival 2018.



Told in flashback, the story tracks the threats and dangers to which Zain and his sister are exposed as they try to negotiate the unforgiving world in which they find themselves, and the alliances Zain finds himself making along the way. When he discovers that his neglectful parents - who are themselves coping with extreme difficulties - are expecting another child, Zain tries to sue them for having children they are unable to care for.
“There is passion and compassion here, and Labaki’s film brings home what poverty and desperation mean, and conversely what love and humanity mean.” [ Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, February 2019]
“The storytelling has humour, lyricism and zest that belies the grimness of the subject matter…. Capernaum veers between harsh social realism and a more playful and escapist style of storytelling [and] as a result the film is very uneven: nonetheless, the best moments here are remarkable.” [Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent, February 2019]




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