CAPERNAUM (nominated for Best Foreign Language Film)
Unless Never Look Away or Shoplifters absolutely blows me away when I watch them before the Oscars on Feb 24th, I think I can safely say that CAPERNAUM is my favorite foreign language movie of the ones nominated, that’s right, better than Roma. This film might not have the gorgeous cinematography that Roma or Cold War has, but it has a much better story, much better pace, a perfect run time, better acting, better characters. A really really powerful film. In fact the only complaint I have about it is I maybe wanted the ending a little more clear cut in what happened, how certain characters got back to certain places, but I feel that some of it was supposed to be “just because” or “ambigious” and I really enjoyed the movie so much I let it slide.
The film is about a 12 year old Lebanese boy named Zain who is in jail at the start of the film for stabbing a person and is in court suing his parents. It then cuts back to Zain’s journey and what events exactly led him to prison, which includes trying to protect one of his older sisters, running away from home, and staying with a deportee named Rahil, and taking care of her small one year old child. I won’t tell you much more of the journey as that is what made the film so captivating. The film has a nice clear cut message on ones identity and the life that was force upon him.
And again, while the cinematography is a bit lacking in some areas, everything else about it technically is pretty great; the shots, the camera work. But its the story, acting, and characters that plunge the audiences’ deep involvement into the film. Zain, who in real life is played by a complete novice, also named Zain, is phenomenal. Can’t believe he was just a novice by the end of the film. The woman that plays Rahil is mesmerizing as well, and how they got certain great emotional shots with that one year old, boggles my mind. Yes, it’s subtitled, and yes its a foreign film, but if you read this review I highly, highly recommend that you check it out. If it weren’t for Roma, I would stake that this could easily win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. If somehow it does, I will be smiling ear to ear.
LIFEBOAT (nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject)
Lifeboat is a short 34 minute Documentary (available on YouTube) about refugees crowded to the brim on multiple makeshift shaky rafts that are trying to flee the harsh life of Libya and escape to Europe. A non-profit German operation called Sea-Watch brave the dangerous journey and try to intercept these boats and rescue these refugees at all costs. Once they are rescued, these people tell stories of being beaten, raped, being part of sexual trafficking and how poverty in general lead them to flee their homes and risk their lives.
The documentary tells and shows this giant rescue operation and gives some haunting details about these lifeboat trips to flee Libya. This doc let’s us know that 1 in 18 people drown and they find 200 to 300 dead bodies on the coast of Northern Africa each year. They piss and shit in these boats and remark about having to stand in it, how these conditions effect the fleeing children. The documentary is short and precise, not over staying its welcome or repeating any information already given to us. The captain of one of the rescue operations tells us that he lends a hand because he knows how easily he or any of his loved ones could’ve had one of the refugees lives and feels that he is obligated to save as many as he can.
This documentary will make you appreciate the life you have, no matter how shitty you think it may be. The images will make your draw drop, some of it is daunting and hard to watch. It’ll give you some perspective. There are thousands upon thousands of people suffering out there that literally almost can’t do anything about it. When they get this one shot at escape, even if the escape could mean death, they will take it no matter the cost. Definitely see why this was nominated for an Academy Award.