Recently I had a chance to watch Capernaum – a Lebanese, award winning film, directed by the very talented Nadine Labaki, who has rendered a thought-provoking and audacious drama of lives in relentless chaos in the backstreets of Beirut.


The film is about a street-smart, quick-witted, and hardened 12-year-old boy, who runs away from his negligent parents, commits a violent crime, and is sentenced to five years in jail. In the end he sues his parents to protest the life they have given him.


The protagonist, Zain (Zain Alrafeea), an immensely likeable kid with an unsmiling face, fights tooth and nail against all forms of injustice that Lebanese society metes out: his family, his friends, strangers and even the government. Two other characters stand out: Ethiopian refugee, Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw) and her baby son Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole). This toddler is the best baby-actor, ever!


There is something of Twain’s Huck Finn about Zain— a wily, footloose, and imaginative boy whose wanderings illuminate the absurdities and horrors of the larger world. He’s also, in circumstance if not in attitude, like a Dickensian hero navigating a metropolis where poverty and cruelty threaten to overwhelm kindness and fellow feeling. The sorrow inherent in this tale would be unbearable without the film’s flashes of humour and performances by a cast of non-professional actors that are both realistic and intense.

Watch this if you enjoy taking a deep dive into realistic life struggles of other cultures.