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Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is an abrasive, unkempt boy of either 12 or 13 years old. Neither he nor his parents quite know his age for sure. His parents’ neglect is only part of the reason why Zain wants to sue them for bringing him into this world without a care. He hopes to stop them from having any more neglected children like himself or his beloved sister, Sahar (Cedra Izam), who they sold into an early marriage. Yet this is still only the beginning of Zain’s sad story.

Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” is a brutally honest — sometimes difficult to watch — drama about neglected children. Some, like Zain, are the innocent victims of a bad situation, joining a big family already burdened with an absurdly small income. Others are the victims of circumstance, like when a hardworking, caring Ethiopian migrant, Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), is arrested for her expired (and forged) paperwork. She can say nothing of her baby Yonas (Boluwatife Treasure Bankole) at home, or she risks losing custody of the infant.

Despite his parents’ mistreatments, Zain tries to do the right things for his siblings. He’s especially protective of Sahar and tries to save her from being sold into marriage. When that fails, he runs away from home. He stumbles onto a dusty fairground where one of the workers, Rahil, takes pity on the forlorn-looking boy asking everyone for work. She takes Zain in and asks the boy to look after Yonas while she works.

Also Read: 'Capernaum' Director Left Out 'Shocking' Details About Kids on the Streets That Audiences Couldn't Handle

Unfortunately, as an undocumented migrant vulnerable to extortion, she’s unable to pay the high price to forge her papers and is arrested, leaving the two boys to fend for themselves. So the resourceful Zain does what he’s always done: survive. He figures out how to feed the baby without its mother’s milk, where to find alternative places to shower when they run out of water, how to create a carriage out of a stolen skateboard and pots and how to use what he learned working for his parents’ drug business to earn money. But every step towards survival is met with complications, and Zain’s growing frustration with this unkind world drives him to want to leave the country — potentially without Yonas.

“Capernaum” has garnered much attention for shining a light on the exploitation of children, migrants and refugees. The movie earned a rapturous debut at Cannes, and Lebanon selected the film as its Oscar contender for the foreign language film category. Labaki, whose previous film “Where Do We Go Now?” was also chosen as Lebanon’s Oscar submission in 2012, collaborated with cinematographer Christopher Aoun to look for beauty in this tragedy. They hone in on details like the sunlight brightly streaming into Zain’s messy home or in touching close-ups of Zain playing with Yonas.

Also Read: Do the Oscars Have an Asia Problem in the Foreign Language Film Race?

Labaki’s film hinges on the heartfelt emotions of a little boy struggling to survive, and she cast Al Rafeea, then a 12-year-old illiterate Syrian refugee, to carry the film’s extraordinary emotional demands. At times, the beatings and arguments in “Capernaum” can look frightful; I worried for the children in the scenes. Recently, the director shared that the boy and his family have resettled in Norway, which was similar to his character’s escape plan to go to Europe.

In the movie, Zain can be defiant, ready to curse or to fight anyone who crosses him or anyone in his care. But he’s not always a raw nerve looking for a brawl. In scenes of quiet desperation, Labaki’s camera focuses on the actor’s eyes and his defeated body posture to get a sense of the internal fight going on in his head. There’s a melancholy tone throughout the film, even in its most innocent moments, like when Zain is playing with Yonas in his crib.

Watch Video: 'Capernaum' Director Nadine Labaki Says Refugee Child Star Is Safe and Resettled

There’s no reprieve from the extreme poverty that fuels Zain’s parents’ abuses or that drives Rahil to risk everything to care for her child. Sadness isn’t just around every corner of this film; it is in the viewer’s face throughout its runtime.

In a handful of drone shots in the movie, Labaki extends her lens beyond the suffering of her characters. As the camera flies up, it loses track of the kids. The shot is now focused on the seemingly endless blocks and rows of rundown homes and crumbling apartments. The children’s suffering is lost in a sea of inescapable hardship. Days after watching the movie, I still have some reservations about how abuse is shown in the film, but it’s hauntingly effective. I haven’t been able to shake those images since.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Oscar Foreign Entry 'The Great Buddha+' Director Says Authority 'Confines and Defines Us'

Oscar Foreign Entry 'Village Rockstars' Director: 'I Started From Nothing With Only a Camera'

Oscar Foreign Entry 'Barbarians,' About Genocide in Romania, Was Nearly Shut Down Mid-Shoot

'Roma,' 'Cold War' Lead Academy's List of 87 Films in the Oscars Foreign Language Race

www.thewrap.com | 12/13/18

The world of “The Conjuring” has developed in strange directions. Originally inspired by the controversial, debatable, but technically real-life investigations of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the franchise began with movies that told fictionalized version of allegedly factual hauntings.

But as the series got bigger, so too did the monsters, and now we have films like “The Nun,” which have no relationship whatsoever to reality, in inspiration or even in style. It’s a spooky, entertaining, but totally goofy entry in “The Conjure-verse.”

“The Nun,” directed by Corin Hardy (“The Hallow”), tells the story of Valak, the evil be-habited nun who haunted Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) in “The Conjuring 2.” The prequel takes place decades earlier, in 1952, and tells the story of how Valak escaped from the Abbey of St. Carta, a bombed-out medieval castle in Romania.

Watch Video: James Wan's 'The Nun' Teaser Conjures Up New Frights in a Romanian Abbey

The story kicks off when a pair of nuns, in a fit of panic, open a mysterious door. One of the nuns gets sucked into the dark void within, while the other escapes, only to immediately kill herself by flinging her body out of a window with a noose around her neck.

Later, a studly local delivery guy named Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet, “Elle”) stumbles across her gruesome remains. So a miracle-hunter named Father Anthony Burke (Demián Bichir) is assigned by the Vatican to investigate, along with a young novitiate named Irene (Taissa Farmiga), who has psychic visions.

With Frenchie by their side, Burke and Irene venture into the creepy-weepy Abbey of St. Carta, where they discover mysterious, terrified and terrifying nuns, radios that turn on by themselves, and apparitions that remind them of past sins. (And also of snakes, just because.) As they read ancient texts that just happened to be in the place where the demonic nun Valak tried to bury them alive — a pretty major flaw in Valak’s plan — they realize the true nature of the evil that surrounds them, and they do what they need to do to stop Valak once and for all.

Also Read: Can 'The Nun' Keep Warner Bros.' Box Office Winning Streak Going?

“The Nun” is spooky, but it’s never genuinely scary, because it takes place in a reality divorced from our own. Every gothic element is overblown, every “boo” scare is shouted so loud it can break glass (sometimes literally). It feels like it jumped straight out of an EC Comics horror anthology, full of unreal imagery but with none of the trademark ironic moralizing.

Many of the film’s biggest centerpieces are so cartoonishly broad that any rational mind would assume they are supposed to be dream sequences. It would be scary if Burke fell into an open grave, but then the casket closes, the grave instantly fills up, and the letters on the tombstone suddenly read “Father Anthony Burke,” as though the titular nun was trying to impress an unseen audience. That’s not frightening. That’s a Looney Tune.

Only Frenchie seems to understand exactly what kind of movie he’s in. When he flees, panicked, from a horrifying specter, he suddenly notices that the demon didn’t follow him into a graveyard. So he grabs the nearest cross-shaped tombstone and carries it with him for the next 30 percent of the film. It’s hilarious and even a little endearing, especially when he drags it into the nearest old-timey pub to hear the locals do their own, charming local rendition of the skittish townsfolk from the beginning of “Dracula.”

Also Read: 'The Nun' Producer James Wan on His Creation of a Superhero-Like Horror Universe

“The Nun” doesn’t seem to belong in universe of “The Conjuring.” In the previous films, the supernatural horrors befell seemingly normal people, grounding the audience in a semblance of reality before any experts in the occult showed up. It’s scary because it could happen to you. But “The Nun” is about occult adventurers seeking out danger, giving the film a B-movie adventure sensibility that would be charmingly silly, were it not for the repetitive horror sequences which try (and usually fail) to get under your skin.

If anything, the connection to the “Conjuring” movies becomes an unfortunate distraction. Taissa Farmiga gives a wonderful performance, full of life and vitality and genuine terror. But she’s the younger sister of Vera Farmiga, who played Lorraine Warren in  the first two “Conjuring” movies, and in this film she looks like a younger version of Lorraine Warren, she dresses like a younger version of Lorraine Warren, she has similar mannerisms as Lorraine Warren, and like Lorraine Warren, she has psychic visions. Heck, “Irene” even sounds similar to “Lorraine.”

And yet the obvious twist, that Irene is a young Lorraine, never comes to pass. It’s the most obvious connection in the world, and “The Nun” never makes it. All our familiarity with the “Conjuring” franchise does is distract from the movie, and from Taissa Farmiga’s admirable performance. It’s like watching a DC superhero movie about a superhero who doubles as a mild-mannered reporter named “Mark Kent,” and nobody ever comments on it. “The Nun” is a movie where children puke snakes, and this Irene/Lorraine business is the weirdest thing in it.

But at least it’s never boring. “The Nun” moves at a fast clip, like it’s desperate to get to the next set piece. A little more action and a little less gore, and it could have made a rollicking installment of Universal’s defunct “Dark Universe” franchise, which also tried, but did a worse job of, combining scary stories with comic-book sensibilities.

Instead, we have “The Nun,” an absurd, somewhat inept, but watchable horror mishmash, visually cobbled together from half-remembered Hammer, Amicus and Roger Corman horror movies, with a plot that glues Michael Mann’s “The Keep” and “Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight” into some kind of weird Frankenstein monster. And if that sounds like a selling point … maybe it is.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Conjuring' Universe Surpasses $1 Billion at Global Box Office

'Conjuring 2' Spinoff on 'Crooked Man' Character in Development at New Line

'AHS': Taissa Farmiga Will Reprise Both Her 'Murder House' and 'Coven' Roles for 'Apocalypse'

Demián Bichir Lands 'Grand Hotel' Pilot at ABC

www.thewrap.com | 9/6/18
Romania has aggressively joined the club of former Soviet bloc nations vying for international film business, jumping beyond the usual range of rebates of 20% to 25% on production spend with a 35% offer. Following more than a decade of debate and foot-dragging, the Romanian government finally heeded the request of local producers, approving the rebate package Wednesday and setting aside […]
variety.com | 6/15/18
Telecoms giant Vodafone has agreed a $21.7B deal to acquire the cable assets of John Malone 's Liberty Global in a number of European markets. The move will see the UK telco buy businesses in Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic and will see it bolster its cable TV, broadband internet and mobile services in the region. However, Liberty Global will retain its UK business Virgin Media. The deal, which has been expected for some months, will now wait for…
deadline.com | 5/9/18

Mario Lopez is a new man.

The Extra co-host couldn’t stop grinning while wearing a long, white T-shirt and white pants just before he was baptized in the Jordan River 10 days before Easter, which falls on April 1.

Lopez, who is Catholic, shared videos of the special moment on Thursday via his Twitter account and opened up about the “moving” experience.

“We are at the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ. I’m about to get baptized,” Lopez, 44, said. “It’s a beautiful day. There’s a really cool Catholic priest that’s gonna do me the honors. And there’s a sermon going on right now. So I’m going to join these fine folks and then, bam! It’s on!”

Got baptized in the same river Jesus did…#JordanRiver #Jesus #JohnTheBaptist pic.twitter.com/WIuPtqEk9b

— Mario Lopez (@MarioLopezExtra) March 22, 2018

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In a second video, Lopez is led into the river by two Catholic priests, one of whom asks him a series of questions, including: “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” and “Do you intend to serve him all your life?”

Lopez answered every question with a firm, “Yes, I do.”

Spiritual moment…#Baptized #JordanRiver #Catholic pic.twitter.com/d2dNGyCAUQ

— Mario Lopez (@MarioLopezExtra) March 22, 2018

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As he was led back into the water by the priests, a chorus of voices began singing. Emerging from the water, Lopez couldn’t stop smiling as he shook hands with the priests and said thank you.

“Thank you! Beautiful people here, helping me, thank you. This is awesome! Wow!” he said, seemingly in disbelief. “Just got baptized in the Jordan River. Hallelujah.”

RELATED: Mario Lopez Joins 7-Year-Old Daughter Gia in the Recording Studio for Elena of Avalor Roles

As he walked out of the river to put his shoes on, he told the camera, “That was awesome, that was so cool and I was so fortunate to meet these very nice people from Romania. They sang the song for me and everything. That was moving. That was cool.”

Lopez opened up about his faith to Fox News Latino in 2015 saying his religion has always been an important aspect of his life.

“I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just tried to build a more spiritual muscle in a business that is very unpredictable,” he told the outlet. “It’s nice to have something that is consistent in our life — family and faith is that for me.”

people.com | 3/22/18

Romania has a developing, upper-middle income market economy, the 11th largest in the European Union by total nominal GDP and the 8th largest based on purchasing power parity. Romania entered the 1990s a relatively poor country by European standards, largely a result of the failed economic policies of Nicolae Ceauşescu in the 1970s and of the failures of privatization in Romania during the 90s, which decreased the GDP by almost 50% and ruined the industry because of corruption. However the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989, reforms in the 2000s and its recent entry to the European Union have led to an improved economic outlook. Romania has experienced growth in foreign investment with a cumulative FDI totaling more than $100 billion since 1989, and has been referred to as a "Tiger" due to its high growth rates and rapid development. Until 2009, Romanian economic growth was among the fastest in Europe (officially 8.4% in 2008 and more than three times the EU average). The country is a regional leader in multiple fields, such as IT and motor vehicle production, and is expected to join the Eurozone by 2014. Bucharest, the capital city, is one of the largest financial and industrial centres in Eastern Europe. Romania was heavily affected by the global financial downturn and gross domestic product contracted by 7.2% in 2009, forcing the government to enact harsh austerity measures and borrow heavily from the IMF. The country's economic contraction continued in 2010 at a rate of 1.2%, while the budget deficit stood at 6.6%, below the IMF-agreed target of 6.8%. Forecasts predict a recovery of 1.5-2.8% in 2011.


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