CAPHARNAUM is a new drama from Lebanese director Nadine Labaki. It won the Jury prize at Cannes Film Festival 2018, making Labaki the first director from the Middle East to win this award in 12 years. Labaki’s film tells the story of a 12-year-old boy named Zain who lives in the slums in Lebanon. Zain sues his parents for not being able to provide for his necessities, like food, clothing, safety, a sanitary place to live and education. Followed by a 15-minute standing ovation after its first screening at Cannes Film Festival 2018, this movie tackles the issue of child endangerment with heart and educates the audience about the unknown dangers children face in Lebanon. Proving herself to be an accomplished and skilful director who can work with non-professional actors, Labaki draws attention to the treatment of children from the slums and the situation of people without ID cards. The trial of Zain is used as a basis to tell the story, and the sequence cuts from the present to the past are kept to a minimum which maintains the steady flow of the story.
Zain is sentenced to five years in jail for stabbing a man, and along with that, he is suing his parents for giving him life. In the film, the kid is assumed to be approximately 12 years old since his parents never submitted any official document of the child at the time of his birth. The number of siblings Zain has is kept unidentified throughout the film, to emphasise the disinterest and lack of responsibilitywhich his parents have regarding their children. The apartment in which the whole family lives is in chaotic squalor: the mother uses crushed illegally bought prescription medicine in hot water to wash clothes, and then uses the drug-infused garments to sell in prison. All of Zain’s siblings are forced to work laborious jobs in order to keep the household running. Zain’s parents are always shown to dismiss their relationship with their children, and without any remorse sell their little girl to their sketchy landlord’s son for a couple of chickens.
The visuals of the film are sophisticated and gritty, creating a perfect sense of the atmosphere surrounding the little boy. Performances are well enacted and can easily be compared to the actors’ personal lives. Labaki brings exceptional performances to this film, does a spectacular job of portraying the abuse of children and challenges her audience to rethink about the society and the world we live in.