CAPERNAUM – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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In a courtroom in Beirut, 12-year-old Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is suing his parents for the “crime” of having given birth to him. Is this the petulant, puerile payback of a vindictive child? We’re already wondering just what terrible offense this kid could have committed that has landed him in prison for five years before he’s even reached his teens. Is the lawsuit a trick to get out of prison for day trips to court? A way to torment his parents? What kind of sociopath is Zain, anyway?

Capernaum — translation: chaos — is not about the court case, but is instead a long series of flashbacks showing us what has led Zain to this moment. And it’s nothing like we might have been expecting. Writer (with Jihad Hojeily and Michelle Keserwany) and director Nadine Labaki gives us perhaps the most harrowing and heartbreaking movie of 2018 with Zain’s story, one that is downright dystopian even as it reflects harsh realities of the world we live in right now. Continue reading…

EDITOR’S NOTE: Capernaum is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for December 7, 2018.

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).