Wednesday, September 4, 2019

CAPERNAUM: I didn't ask to be born

A lot of young people have complained they didn't ask to be born.  As a youngster their life is controlled by adults who do not always have their best interest in mind.

"Capernaum," was a winner at Cannes and different film festivals around the globe plus received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film.

Set in Lebanon.  A young boy has his handcuffs removed and requested to move closer to a judge  We soon learn the boy has been imprisoned for stabbing someone, but he is here with a lawyer because he is suing his parents. From this point we are taken by flashbacks to the events that led to this.

There is a lot of physical and verbal abuse from his parents who seem to have "lots" of other children mostly younger.  Zain is most attached to a young sister whose marriage is being arranged by his parents.  Soon after Zain runs away and before long comes to an arrangement with an illegal Ethiopian refugee.  She is a key supporting player and we learn there are others speaking Amharic (subtitled as Ethiopian).  Illegals are at a disadvantage and are exploited.

At some point after some serious problems Zain returns to his home in order to get "papers" so he can leave the country, but learns there are no papers as his parents were afraid to leave any traces.  He also learned that his beloved sister had been married and died as a result of being too young for sexual activity.  He grabs a knife and does stab the man who killed his sister and is sentenced to five years in prison after his parents testify against him.  Zain generates some publicity and is given support from a radio station allowing him to sue his parents.  I am reluctant to discuss the end result.

The film is a really good story and fortunately there was a creative and professional crew to tell it in the best way possible.

Nadine Labaki is the driving force behind this movie as director and writer.  Born in Lebanon, she directed short films starting in 2003 and 2007 was included in Variety's top ten directors to watch. First noticed her as lead actress in "Where do we go from here" that she also wrote, directed and produced.  She started as an actress and often takes a role, even in her own movie including "Capernaum." Fluent in Arabic, French and English she has been in a lead role in a French movie.  A big breakthrough was in "Caramel" that she acted in, directed and wrote.  She earned respect from the industry as had been asked to participate as a jury member at film festivals Venice and Cannes.

Co-writers Jihad Hojeily (also for three other Labadki scripts) , Michelle Keswarny (1st script) and Georges Khabbaz (his third script).  Georges had 9 credits as an actor including "Under the Bombs"

Khaled Mouzanar, the composer, married to Nadine had done music for a few of her films plus a few others.  For "Capernaum" he is listed as a writing collaborator and producer.

Michel Merkt, the producer has an international experience as producer, associate producer and executive producer.  His resume takes him to France, Germany, United States, Britain, India and Lithuania.  Includes such films as "Elle," "Toni Erdman," "Miles Ahead" and "Photograph."

Danny Glover, the famous actor from the "Lethal Weapon" series was listed as an executive producer and surprised to learn he had 47 credits as a producer.including for American, Bollywood, Thai, and now Lebanon films.  As a often time action star it was surprising to learn he comes from a civil rights background and has done humanitarian work.  At one time he was a Goodwill Ambassador working in Ethiopia.  He also had been a jury member at Cannes.

Christopher Aoun, the award winning cinematographer had done films in Germany as well and in India (Tamil),  He had done filming in the Mid-East. 

Two editors listed.  Konstantin Bock has done films in English and German..

Laure Gardette was the other editor.  She has done mostly French movies, including "In the House," "Potiche"  and "The New Girlfriend."    In 2007 she edited "Caramel." where she may have met Nadine Labaki.

Zain Ali Rafeea played the main character also named Zain and really stole the show.  He was discovered by the director, Nadine roaming the streets of Beirut as a Syrian refugee.  There are also references to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.  In the script Zain fantasizes about moving to Sweden, but in reality his family moved to Norway.

Yordonas Shiferaw played Rahil, a woman who for a time supported Zain and trusted him with her baby.   She spoke both Arabic and Amharic.  She made the trip to the Cannes Festival.

Elias Khoury who plays the judge was a writer who wrote a novel turned into "Bab el Shams," a well regarded film.

Most of the remaining actors were inexperienced before this film.

At one time children worked in mines, but eventually that ended.  Poverty and violent conflicts have caused child abuse. to this day. 

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