Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, this new film by Nadine Labaki also received a 2019 Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Capernaum (Chaos) follows the journey of Zain, a clever, gutsy 12-year-old boy who flees his parents and sues them for the “crime” of giving him life. Zain uses his wits to survive on the streets; takes care of an Ethiopian refugee and her infant son; is jailed for a crime; and finally seeks justice in a courtroom.
Capernaum was made with a cast of nonprofessionals playing characters whose lives closely parallel their own. Labaki asked her performers to react spontaneously with their own words and gestures. When their instincts diverged from the script, she adapted the screenplay to follow them. Steeped in the quiet routines of ordinary people, Capernaum is a film with an expansive palette. Without warning, it can ignite with emotional intensity, surprise with unexpected tenderness, and inspire with flashes of poetic imagery. Although it is set in the depths of a society’s systematic inhumanity, Capernaum is ultimately a hopeful film that stirs the heart as deeply as it cries out for action.