Nadine Labaki Interview: ‘Capernaum’ director
Nadine Labaki was compelled to make “Capernaum” after witnessing “children on the streets, either children begging, or children working, or children who are deprived of their most basic rights. It’s something that lots of children around the world are struggling with right now, and I think I’m not the only one being moved by it. I just felt a need to express it.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
This Sony Pictures Classics release centers on Zain (Zain Al Rafeea), a 12-year-old Lebanese boy living in extreme poverty with several siblings. When he runs away from home he’s taken in by an Ethiopian refugee (Yordanos Shiferaw) and is forced to care for her infant son (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole) after she’s detained. He’s later arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment for committing a violent crime, and then he decides to sue his parents for neglect.
Labaki, was born in Beirut, Lebanon, so she felt a responsibility to shine a light on this situation. “I can use my tool, which is filmmaking, to try to do something about it,” she explains. “If I don’t succeed, at least it might trigger a conversation.”
The genesis for this specific story stemmed from one particular sighting of “a child sitting on a sidewalk with his mom. His mom was begging, and he was dozing off, trying to sleep, and he couldn’t sleep because it was so uncomfortable,” Labaki remembers. “I thought, if this child could talk, what would he say? What would he tell the world? How would he address us, the society that is ignoring him, is ignoring his struggle?”
“Capernaum” won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, where it also competed for the Palme d’Or. Labaki’s previous film, “Where Do We Go Now?” (2011), received the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.