This is a review of the movie Caphernaum. I also want to compare it with a 2005 Lebanese movie called Zozo which based on a slightly similar theme. The name of the movie, Caphernaum, is taken from the name of a village in Israel where Jesus is said to have performed most of his miracles. The word Caphernaum simply translated means Naum’s Village (Caphar = Village, Naum= Noam). However the village was forgotten and when it was discovered many years later, it was in an absolute state of ruin. Now this movie made by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki alludes to this new meaning of the word Caphernaum, it means when things fall into such a state of disrepair and wretchedness that they can never go back to their earlier state.
The movie is set in present day Lebanon where a twelve year old boy, who has lived in a life of poverty sues his parents for having many kids and failing to love them like they deserve. The child who plays Zain has faced similar struggles in real life, and boy does it show in his work! You have to wonder if this twelve year old is acting or merely reliving his experience. Zain Al Rafea manages to become a child a moment and in the next moment he can be seen struggling with issues of adulthood. His puberty and change in emotions are merely an addition to the other frustrations of life. Despite this depressing sounding ambience, the movie doesn’t become pessimistic as Zain’s constant struggle with whatever life throws at him keeps us hooked to the plot.
Although Zain seems unattached to most of his family, he is attached to his sister, Sahar. And the only thing that Zain knows is that his sister’s menstruation could get her married to a much older man and Zain’s solution to this problem is to ask his sister to keep it hidden.
Overall, Zain’s life is full of struggles for the basics such as food, clothing and shelter. So it is amazing that what he craves for most is love and attention. His want for a parent is so strong that if he doesn’t have a caring parent, he himself becomes a parent to a little baby whose Ethiopian mother, Rahil, has gone missing.
(To people who have said that Zain is too young to have used all the abusive, swear words in the movie, take a walk in your poor neighbourhood and discover the language.)