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Child crime, court time in great Metro think-piece

Capernaum is fantastic world cinema, and just might have real world implications



Stars: 4.5

Starring Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Bankole, Kawthar Al Haddad, Fadi Kamel Youssef, Nour el Husseini, Alaa Chouchnieh, Cedra Izam, Nadine Labaki, Joseph Jimbazian and Farah Hasno

Directed by Nadine Labaki

Written by Nadine Labaki, Jihad Hojaily and Michelle Keserwany

Rated: 14A for violence, coarse language, substance abuse, and nudity

Runtime: 123 minutes

Screenings from Friday, March 8, to Monday, March 18, at Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St. in Edmonton. Visit for times.


One of the best films of 2018 is lined up for a limited run at Metro Cinema, starting Friday night. It’s not a feel-good fun date movie but rather it hits many high points on the spectrum of socially relevant world cinema. In other words, this film is everything that you want that you can’t get in a Marvel superhero movie. Perhaps it’s best to think of it as Kids with real kids in the Middle East, but with a real kicker. Take your parents to court, implies Capernaum.

Zain (Zain al Rafeea) is a 12-year-old Beirut slum kid who lives with his parents and shares a single dirty mattress with several of his siblings. Life is no picnic and his ratty clothes and undernourished physical self are only the start. He roams the streets, smoking and swearing with his friends, forging prescriptions for drugs to sell on the street. In turn, his mother Souad (Kawthar Al Haddad) and his father Selim (Fadi Kamel Youssef) swear back at him and mistreat him physically. And he’s lucky. His older sister gets married off, his parents’ way of trying to get rid of her and maybe give her a better life at the same time.

The story doesn’t really start there though. It’s told mostly in flashback as we start with him facing his parents in court. Zain is already serving a five-year prison sentence for stabbing a man, so he decides to sue his parents. He says that giving him life was a punishment he didn’t deserve, and it’s their fault.

From there, we examine the months leading up to his crime and examining all of the circumstances of his life surrounding his decision to sue his parents. Sometimes it’s hard to disagree with Zain’s argument in court, although sympathies are mixed with his parents’ pleas that they did the best they could too. If it doesn’t make people consider the real world implications then perhaps they need to earn a masters in parenting degree before bearing children of their own.

Capernaum (translated as “Chaos” in Arabic) is thoroughly gripping to watch, and rewatch. Co-writer and director Nadine Labaki really knows how to offer the world in much of its horrible splendour as an unfair cesspool where you can’t even rely on your parents to care for you. Young Zain al Rafeea is a phenomenal force here, certainly one of the big reasons the film took the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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