A popular hit in Cannes, and already eyed-up as an Oscar contender, this heartfelt drama of a runaway boy’s life on the streets of Beirut was shot with a cast of non-professional actors by Lebanese actress/director/co-writer Nadine Labaki (Caramel, NZIFF08).
“While this is unquestionably an issue film, it tackles its subject with intelligence and heart… Labaki uses a trial to structure the film, though this isn’t a courtroom drama... Admittedly the case could probably only exist in cinema: Zain (Zain Al Rafeea), already serving a five-year sentence for stabbing someone, is suing his parents… for giving him life. Approximately 12 years old (even his parents don’t know his exact age, and they never got a birth certificate), this pint-sized James Dean is a sensitive toughie simmering with righteous resentment. One glimpse at his troubled home life and it’s easy to understand why…
Firmly in the tradition of great guttersnipe dramas, the film pays a considerable amount of attention to milieu, foregrounding the solidarity of children as they struggle to survive in an adult-made hell... Moments of humor…offer just the right balance with the overall unforced pathos… Young Al Rafeea is a revelation as the swaggering, foul-mouthed Zain, combining the requisite traits of wounded sensitivity with seasoned resilience that somehow never feels clichéd.” — Jay Weissberg, Variety
“Capharnaüm is a howl of protest against social injustice, a film as grounded in a place and time and yet as universal in its empathy with the dispossessed as Bicycle Thieves or Salaam Bombay!” — Lee Marshall, Screendaily