CAPHARNAÜM: a movie review by Hila Tsor

December 12, 2018 by Hila Tsor
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CAPHARNAÜM was a genuine masterpiece, a story that will stick with you months later. 

CAPHARNAÜM follows the complex and heart-wrenching story of Zain (Zain Al Rafeea), a young boy living in the slums of Lebanon. The film features heartbreaking moments of suffering, loss, neglect, starvation, child brides and abuse. The harsh poverty is difficult to watch, and the acting will blow you away with its realism. 

The film begins with Zain is suing his parents for giving him life. The story then backtracks. Zain’s life is filled with hardships and injustices; he is unable to attend school and is forced to do heavy labour in order to help provide for his family. Zain eventually runs away after his sister is sold off and is left to fend for himself. Until starved for food, he is taken in by Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw) an Ethiopian woman with a young son, Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole). One day, Rahil does not return home and Zain is tasked with survival as well as taking care of Yonas. The lack of food, water and ultimately shelter creates an unimaginable situation.  

Many of the actors are untrained young children and infants, and I have never come across such talent from child actors. Particularly, director Nadine Labaki managed to get Yonas, who is only a toddler, to convey every type of emotion from hunger to sadness to love. I’ve never seen a toddler be able to perform in the incredible way Yonas did. 

The relationship Zain has with Yonas was beautifully developed, and the viewers follow its growth as Zain becomes Yonas’ primary caretaker. Despite Zain’s despair and struggle to survive in a cruel world, he has a strong ability to love, as evident through Yonas and his sister, Sahar, who is sold off as a child bride.

This film draws on so many emotions and does so beautifully. Everyone needs to see this movie. 

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