Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum wins jury prize at Cannes

Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum in competition at the 71st Cannes was clearly a strong contender for the Palme d'or  with powerful innovative shots by Christopher Aoun, skilled editing by Konstantin Bock and layering with a dynamic soundtrack by Khaled Mouzanar also the film’s producer.

Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is a young 12 year old boy who watches his sister Sahar married off as a young girl by his parents and runs away as protest. He is taken in by Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), an Ethiopian woman with a young son she treats with love and affection but when she doesn’t return home Zain finds himself becoming a nursemaid in the slums of a middle eastern city trying to find food and shelter. In inverted narrative order, we learn why he later decides to sue his parents for bringing him into the world. But Zain has an elaborate plan and his solitary actions help to create reforms in his society. 

Capernaum is an investigation of lost children who are sold into homes where they are abused and mistreated and where their owners profit from their misery. The film is a spectacular visual and auditory panorama of an unnamed Middle Eastern city with hundreds of children or children neglected by their parents living in the streets and trying to survive amidst poverty and corruption. They are not the only ones on the outskirts of society in a city where refugees sell their hair for food and live in squalor. Labaki’s focus is on these children and young refugees of the street. The obstacles in Zain’s path as he tries to care for Rahil’s young son are as relentless as he is resourceful. Capernaum , which means Chaos, is the maze that he is born into and learns to endure and survive.

When I saw Capernaum at Cannes in May, I knew this was going to be a top award winner – and it was, the Jury Prize – the jury’s favorite – in an historic year at Cannes where 84 women climbed the steps of the Palais as a symbolic protest - representing the number of women chosen for the official competition in the festival’s history , eclipsed by over 1500 men

Nadine Labaki is a rising director with films entered in other Cannes sections in previous years including a film she made through the Cannes Film Festival Residence program in 2006 – Caramel and Where Do We Go Now? entered into Un Certain Regard 2011, and this year for the first time in the official selection with Capernaum.

© 2018 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/06/18
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