What’s the story?

Zain lives in a cramped up apartment with his abusive parents and seven siblings, all of whom are forced to help in the family business of crushing Tramadol tablets and smuggling them inside a prison, where Zain’s brother sells it to other convicts. When Zain’s 11-year-old sister, Sahar, gets her first period, Zain is afraid that their parents will marry her off for money.

Capernaum 2

Zain makes arrangements so he can escape with his sister but before he can do that, his parents give Sahar away to their landlord as a child-bride. Zain runs away from home and arrives at an amusement park where he meets Rahil, an undocumented Ethiopian woman who works as a cleaner at the park. She takes Zain to her home, which is made out of tin walls, and provides him with food and shelter in exchange for looking after her toddler, Yonas, while she goes away to work every day.

One day, Rahil is caught by the Lebanese authorities and Zain is left alone to fend for himself as well as Yonas. After they run out of food, he desperately takes to the streets to find something to eat and drink. Circumstances lead him to commit a horrible crime after which he is sent to a juvenile prison where he decides to sue his parents for giving birth to him.

Is it any good?

This movie is hard to watch – not because it isn’t good, but because it shows you a harsh reality that is as heart-wrenching as it is magnificent. Zain, who is barely 12 years old, is abused by the people who gave birth to him and are responsible for his upbringing. As he tries to survive in the face of injustice, he becomes resilient and does not give in to cruelty; instead, he becomes a fighter. The absence of morality in this world hits you hard when Zain sues his parents for giving birth to him and says that the sweetest thing he has ever been called is “son of a bitch”, a fact that is enough to make you desperate to help out every child being mistreated like that.


This movie is shot like a documentary with the camera following Zain through the slums of Beirut. The character of Zain is played by the Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea, who delves into the role magnificently. He captured the true essence of a child who had to face tragedies at a young age and his eyes reflect the struggles he had to go through. In a world that tells him again and again that in order to prove your existence, you need to have documented papers in the form of a birth certificate, Zain’s unfortunate story is a story of a stolen childhood.


This movie is a story of a young boy who had to face many tragedies; first at the hands of his parents, and then at the hands of this world as he roams the streets in search of food and water. At last, he decides to sue his parents for not giving him the childhood he deserved. It is a distressing movie and it leaves you with a feeling of agony at the inhumanity a child has to withstand at such a young age. It is shot spectacularly and the acting of Zain is enough to make it seem realistic. It is a must-watch if you are looking for a harsh slice of reality.

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