Review: CAPERNAUM

By Jan Hamilton

Capernaum means chaos in Lebanese, and our movie is a perfect representation of the word, but it is not without humanity, goodness and hope. We first see Zain, a small twelve year old boy, in court.  The judge asks why Zain wants to sue his parents, he says “Because they gave me life.” We flash back to the circumstances that brought Zain to this decision. His family includes parents and about seven other siblings. He is the oldest, hardworking and responsible, but with an incredibly foul mouth.

He is especially fond of his eleven year old sister Sahar. They and the younger kids don’t go to school, unlike neighbors in their very poor area, but spend the days in the streets hawking soft drinks or fruits. He also works at a local grocery store, the owners adult son has been promised Sahar in marriage, in return he is letting the family stay rent free in a crowded apartment. Zain’s mom has found a way to make money by getting drugs into a local prison through the laundered clothes. The family is clearly extremely poor, and when we watch the parents spending money on cigarettes and alcohol, we can’t help but be annoyed.

This is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. If you didn’t know better, you would think it was a documentary. It feels so real. The actors are mostly not actors, but people from the area. Zain, his his parents, Rahil and baby Yonas are all wonderful. I have no idea how they got that performance from a baby, but it was fantastic.

Filled with chaos, anger, goodness, tragedy love and hope, this is a great film.

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