Capernaum (2018)


Before you watch this movie, make sure you have some tissues ready. Nope, it’s not a poignant drama, but a documentary kind-of-movie that is realistic to the core.


Language : Arabic | Amharic

Director  : Nadine Labaki

Writer : Nadine Labaki, Jihad Hojeily, Michelle Keserwany , Georges Khabbaz, Khaled Mouzanar.

Cast :   Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole

Genre: Drama

IMDb: Capernaum (2018)

Streaming on Netflix.

Before you watch this movie, make sure you have some tissues ready. Nope, it’s not a poignant drama, but a documentary kind-of-movie that is realistic to the core. The premise is based on the hard-hitting lives of the Syrian refugee kids who dwell in the slums of Beirut. The refugee crisis fell hard upon the shoulders of the innocent children who were denied their basic rights just because they and their parents didn’t have “identification papers”. The story is profound and reminds us of the consequences of ruthless national policies on the lives of  so-called illegal migrants whose actions had nothing to do with their fate as much as their citizenship had. Even if our secured and comfortable lives are at a sharp contrast with theirs, we feel there is a lot in common between us and them – Thanks to the wonderful narrative and heart-touching dialogues. Their pain, sorrow, distress, dilemma and helplessness are acknowledged with a blind eye by the society and ultimately, they are left to perish. That’s the part that brings us the tears.

Folks, this issue is serious and as genuine as the emotions expressed by the real-life slum kids portrayed in the movie. There are many kids around the world who are suffering through this misery, and I know that if you and I watch this movie it is not going to make a direct impact on their lives because it’s the politics of the nations that play the crucial role here. But as ‘good citizens’ we could reconsider how we treat our migrant workers and how we can do our bit in helping the starving kids on the streets. If not any of these, we could atleast give them a compassionate glance which is, infact a luxury for them. I think these small steps can go a long way in shaping the way how we as fellow ‘human beings’ treat each other. 

Last, but not the least, it is the actors that painted this movie so beautifully. I was wondering while watching that how could these little kids act so impeccably with their expressions and timing and was particularly awestruck by the performance of the toddler. Then I read the background of these kids and understood that they weren’t acting but living their lives.

Loads of gratitude and a huge shoutout for the amazing director Nadine Labaki who had the courage to address an important socio-political cause and weave a masterpiece movie out of it. This is a movie that is going to stay with you a little longer. 

Judge: “Why are you suing your parents?”
Zain: “For giving me life.”

Verdict: 7/7 stars.

Bloody Brilliant.


The title, Capernaum, can mean ‘chaos’ in Arabic. It is derived from a biblical town that was condemned by Jesus as one of the three cities that refused to repent for its sins even after Jesus performed miracles of healing there.

The boy who stars as Zain is actually a Syrian refugee. Zain Al Rafeea had lived in Lebanon for eight years and was 12 years old during production. His character is named for him.

All actors in Capernaum are people whose real life resembles that of the film. Thus, Zain’s real life is similar (to some extent) to that of his character, as was Rahil, who was undocumented. For the character of Zain’s mother, Nadine Labaki was inspired by a woman she met, who has 16 children and lives in the same conditions as those of Capernaum. Six of her children have died and others are in orphanages for lack of care. The one who plays the role of Kawthar really fed her children with sugar and ice cubes.

The title, “Capharnaüm”, was imposed on Nadine Labaki without the filmmaker realizing it. When she began thinking about the feature film, her husband offered to write on a whiteboard in the middle of their living room all the themes she wanted to talk about, her obsessions of the moment. At one point she looked at the board and said, “C’est un Capernaum” – it’s chaos.


Namitha Girijan

Makes business presentations for a living. Otherwise, a writer. Lover of great stories and good food. Check out Namitha's movie page on Instagram @girl_watching_movies.

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