Capernaum is a social realist drama shot on location in the slums
Follows the realist, or neorealist
linage from Rossellini on down to Bunuel’s Los Olvidados, to the work of the Dardenne brothers and Sean
Bakers The Florida Project
Zain- a young boy (who doesn’t not
look like Enzo Staiola from Bicycle
literally suing his parents for being born. We see him in the opening as a
crass figure swearing in the courtroom and initially it does feel like it’s
going to be a courtroom drama. However, the majority of the film is a
flashback of what led to this point in the story. We see him being used by
his parents, making drugs, standing up for his sister who is being pimped
out by the parents.
Labaki’s message is pretty clear
and in a few spot the characters are a little too self-aware of their
message, but she shows Zain taking care of a baby (the Rahil immigrant
mother character’s baby). Zain does a good job, his parents do not. Labaki
also parallels the story of struggle for the innocent immigrant (Rahil)
being taken advantage just like the innocent child. At one point Labaki is
bouncing off them back and forth edited in jail separately
Handheld camera, authenticity in
the squalor of the locations
A poignant story, tough to watch
the series of hardships and sorrow
Grim and relentlessly bleak at times but there are occasion lighter moments (although fleeting). Clearly influenced by Italian neorealism, character’s doing everyday chores, struggling to get by. The film is effective at bringing you into its hectic and chaotic world.
It is told almost like a documentary although the use of flash back is a little confusing in the sense that the story is suppose to be told through Zain but some of the focus is also on Rahil, an immigrant whose work visa expires. I am not sure if would constitute an example of bad film form? I could be wrong here it’s just that since the story is told throughout flashbacks from Zain’s perspective I am not sure why there are scenes that seem to occur through Rahil’s perspective.
The director, Nadine Labaki, is quite interesting and very talented as she not only directors but is an actress and writer as well. She appears to be active in political and social issues.