This award winning poignant Lebanese drama is about a poor twelve year boy who sues his parents for giving him life of misery and neglect. It’s a story that is sensitively told but hits hard.
Cast – Zain Al Rafeea, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Yordanos Shiferaw,
Boluwatife Bankole, Kawthar Al Haddad, Fadi Kamel Youssef, Nour el Husseini, Alaa Chouchnieh, Cedra Izam, Nadine Labaki, Joseph Jimbazian, Farah Hasno
Director – Nadine Labaki
Writers – Nadine Labaki, Jihad Hojaily, Michelle Keserwany, Georges Khabbaz, Khaled Mouzanar
The plot open to show twelve year old Zain under arrest and serving a sentence. He wants to sue his parents for giving him a life of extreme poverty, misery and neglect.
In flashback we see his life journey in the slums of Beirut with his uneducated parents and six siblings, then with an illegal Ethiopian immigrant.
Fighting extreme poverty and tough life, he rallies on with his street smartness, survivor instincts and resourcefulness.
What is it that lands him up in prison and what does destiny hold for him ?
The film deservingly got a 15 min standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival apart from numerous other accolades in the festival circuit.
I kept postponing the film despite glowing recommendations as I feared watching something that tough. But I was surprised and impressed to see the manner and sensitivity with which Nadine has handled the subject.
She refrains from inviting pity or tears or portraying unpleasantness that might be tough to handle. She portrays issues like poverty, harshness of life for those without documentation, of illegal migrants and most importantly child neglect. But she balances these out by portraying a character who doesn’t cow down and doesn’t let us feel that way either.
There is a certain matter of fact way about her depiction. Zain’s numbness to the disastrous life, his resoluteness and never-say-die attitude prods us on in this journey without tearing us down.
There are moments of lightness amidst all the dreariness, there is innocence amid the way-beyond-his-age maturity, there’s a little something he dreams of amid all the hopelessness, there are emotions and ethics that he retains amid all the harshness around him, there’s admiration that he earns amid all the apathy.
And the first time he smiles in the last frame of the film is what actually brings a lump to your throat.
Zain’s performance as Zain is nothing short of stellar and realistic. He’s in each frame and the camerawork ensures you remain invested in each of his expressions.
The child was a first time actor and didn’t even now how to read and write during the filming.
After the film, he has been settled In Norway with his family with the help of UN.
The toddler’s performance and the incredible realistic capture of it will steal your heart.
Hats off to Nadine for being able to capture the moments with these two kids.
The film is highly recommended for those who relish world cinema and poignant dramas.
It’s a gem for its sensitive story telling and its heart winning performances.