Posts Tagged ‘Nadine Labaki’

Zain Al Rafeea

“CAPERNAUM” My rating: B+

126 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Personal drama and social commentary find an almost perfect marriage in “Capernaum,” an  Oscar-nominated (for foreign language film) heartbreaker about a little boy navigating life on the mean streets of Beirut.

Written and directed by Nadine Labaki (whose earlier efforts — “Caramel” and “Where Do We Go Now?” — look simplistic by comparison), “Capernaum” stars 12-year-old Zain Al Rafeea, who gives a performance for the ages.

The story is bookended by a trial.  Young Zain (Al Rafeea) is currently in juvenile lockup for, in his words, “stabbing the son of a bitch.” Now he has dragged  his no-good parents (Kawsar Al Haddad, Fadi Yousef) into court; basically he’s suing them for giving  birth to him.

Filmmaker Labaki does not dwell long on this improbable  spectacle. Most of “Capernaum” is a long flashback depicting how things came to this sad state. Zain’s journey is like that of a Dickens protagonist through a world of few pleasures and much indifference.

Right from the get-go it’s obvious that Zain is one tough little guy. He swears like a sailor and has a chip-on-his-shoulder attitude. He is uncowed by adult authority and is openly contemptuous of his parents, crooks whose current scam is delivering drug-impregnated clothing to Zain’s imprisoned older brother.

The only family member Zain cares about  is his older sister Sahar (Haita ‘Cedra’ Izzam). When the frightened girl experiences her first period, Zain explains what’s what and gives her his T-shirt to use as a menstrual pad, warning her not to tell anyone that she’s reached this milestone. Sure enough, once their parents get wind of Sahar’s condition they sell her to their landlord.


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