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Andrew

Capernaum

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I would've liked to write a full review of this film, but I chose to ride the zeitgeist and write about Leaving Neverland instead.  But, after a slow opening 20 minutes (I nearly fell asleep, actually), this film turns into a gut punch.  Its depiction of a childhood in poverty in urban Lebanon is devastating, with an incredible performance by its young lead.  It's an indictment of toxic parents, but an even broader, searing condemnation of industrial societies that lack a safety net at every level for their most vulnerable (children and refugees both).  

Edited by Andrew

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I saw this at a film festival and thought about the piece I wrote after Beasts of No Nation at TIFF regarding compassion fatigue and first-world guilt. I don't dispute that the film is harrowing, but for me it was to the point where I wasn't drawn in, keeping my sadness, anger, compassion, all emotions, really, at a safe arm's length. I felt like I had seen this story before and would again, perhaps with different names and faces but the same message. 

Perhaps I was numb and the film would play better outside of a now...this festival setting. 

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A couple of things keep me engaged in films like this:

- I'm assuming that as an American viewer, I'm not the original target audience for a film like Capernaum.  I'm going to guess this is far harder hitting for a Lebanese audience, the Beirut bourgeois who drive past the slums on highways during their commute, and are complicit in the country's health care, educational, and prison systems, who don't speak up for immigrant rights.

- I'm reminded that poverty is poverty, but looks somewhat different in each country and culture.  At least once a day at work, I have to spray Lysol in my office after a patient leaves - not because folks don't want to take care of themselves, but because they're homeless, or if they have a home, they're too broke to run a washing machine regularly.  In East Tennessee, addicts try to score Subutex or a Xanax totem pole; on the streets of Beirut apparently, they're drinking Tramadol juice.  In its own way, films like these help me from getting more jaded than I already am about the poverty I witness daily, deepening my empathy for the local poor folks.

But that's just me...

By the way, Ken, at your screening, did you hear anything about the significance of the film's title?  It's a curious choice - as I recall, it was the name of Jesus' hometown before he started his ministry.  It left me wondering if they're was a Christian underpinning to this film, especially since the only folks who brought joy into the prison depicted were a team of Christian minstrels (per the credits, an actual Benedictine group).

Edited by Andrew

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37 minutes ago, Andrew said:

 

By the way, Ken, at your screening, did you hear anything about the significance of the film's title?  It's a curious choice - as I recall, it was the name of Jesus' hometown before he started his ministry.  It left me wondering if they're was a Christian underpinning to this film, especially since the only folks who brought joy into the prison depicted were a team of Christian minstrels (per the credits, an actual Benedictine group).

1

From interview :

Quote

 

Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki said the dystopian images in her film are a reflection of Beirut as it is today. It's also captured in the film's title.

"Capernaum in French is used usually in French literature to signify chaos, to signify hell, disorder," she said.

 

 

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Andrew wrote:
It's a curious choice - as I recall, it was the name of Jesus' hometown before he started his ministry.

I was *going* to say that Jesus' hometown was Nazareth, and that Capernaum is where Peter, Andrew, James and John worked as fishermen before Jesus called them to his ministry -- but a quick glance at the concordance indicates that Jesus did "live in Capernaum" after leaving Nazareth, according to Matthew 4:13. Huh. Oh, and apparently one can infer from Mark 2:1 that the famous story of the cripple being let down through the roof actually took place at Jesus' own home; for some reason -- thanks to Zeffirelli, probably -- I always imagined it happening at someone else's house. (I was actually *in* Capernaum a few months ago, for what it's worth, and visited a church that has been built over a first-century house that is thought by some to have belonged to one of the fisherman-disciples.)

The interview kenmorefield quoted wrote:
"Capernaum in French is used usually in French literature to signify chaos, to signify hell, disorder," she said.

Huh. I wonder why that is. ... Merriam-Webster says the word in question is actually "capharnaum", and that it means "a confused jumble : a place marked by a disorderly accumulation of objects", and that the word derived this meaning "from the crowd before the house where Jesus preached" in Mark 2:2 (i.e. when the cripple was let down through the roof).

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8 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

The interview kenmorefield quoted wrote:
"Capernaum in French is used usually in French literature to signify chaos, to signify hell, disorder," she said.

Huh. I wonder why that is. ... Merriam-Webster says the word in question is actually "capharnaum", and that it means "a confused jumble : a place marked by a disorderly accumulation of objects", and that the word derived this meaning "from the crowd before the house where Jesus preached" in Mark 2:2 (i.e. when the cripple was let down through the roof).

That is curious.  I know in Quebecois French that liturgical language gives them their strongest curse words - e.g., tabernak is even stronger than putain, the F-bomb equivalent in French.  I guess French elsewhere does similar things, too.

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