It was a proud day for Lebanon last Saturday; with Nadine Labaki’s film Capernaum winning the Jury Prize at Cannes, the festivals third highest prize. She is the first Arab woman to win a major prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Already there are calls that is should win the Best Foreign Feature Oscar for next year’s awards as well.
The film was marked as a front runner after receiving a 15 minute standing ovation after its screening last Thursday. Many are calling it “the best baby performance in the history of cinema.”
Capernaum, tells the story of Zain, a 12 year old Lebanese child, who sues his parents for bringing him into the life they’ve given him: that of squalor, poverty, abuse, child brides, and lack of papers. “[He] decides to sue his parents for having brought him into this world when they can’t raise him properly, even if only to give him love,” Labaki explained. “The fight of this mistreated boy, whose parents have not lived up to their task, resonates like the scream of all those who are neglected by our system: a universal accusation seen through candid eyes.” The film was inspired by many people Labaki has encountered in real lives – this blending of truth and fiction are certainly what contributes to the film’s immense poignancy. The films lead character Zain for example, is played by Syrian refugee lead Zain Al Rafeea, who was until recently a delivery boy, and has now left audiences spellbound by his performance.
The film is a heart-wrenching and pertinent social critique. The young cast of the film Labaki discovered when they were selling chewing gum or begging on the street. It was to them that she dedicated the award, during her speech saying: “I really think about them [the cast]. I hope the film will enable the voices of these children to be better heard and trigger a debate.”
Screenwriter of the Michelle Keserwany spoke to Selections, about the distinct approach to screenwriting the film had took. “The actors in the film had life stories that often matched the roles that they were playing, so we also allowed them to improvise and include their voices in the script.”
The release date is as yet undecided, but hotly anticipated. It promises to be an awe inspiring, must see film.