‘Captain’ captures imagination

Jordanian film ‘Captain Abu Raed,’ which tells the touching story of a lonely janitor, is a must see says Mohamad Kadry

By Mohamad Kadry

Published: Thu 26 Jun 2008, 10:41 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:20 PM

TOUTED AS the first ‘independent Jordanian film,’ there is much to be excited about this flick. A perfect amalgamation of sweeping backdrops, uplifting orchestra, and subtle characters makes Captain Abu Raed one of the best films ever to come out of the Middle East. Winner of the Sundance 2008 World Cinema Audience Award, its universality transcends culture and language.

First and foremost, non-Arabic speakers must not be intimidated by watching an Arab themed film with sub-titles. This is truly a must see flick for everyone, as its humour, depth, and storyline are consciously designed to cater to a diverse audience.

The film, set in contemporary Amman, avoids politics and controversial issues. Rather, it offers a realistic look at everyday life, shot seamlessly from the hilltops to the alleyways.

Its revolving theme is hope. When Abu Raed, an airport janitor, is mistaken for a pilot by a neighborhood boy named Tareq, the old widower decides to humour him and his friends with tales of his world adventures. The childless widower offers more than stories to the group; he begins to represent their aspirations encompassing hope of a better life.

The film touches on the children’s sense of hopelessness, knowing all too well the difficulty of escaping their own socio-economic class. Impoverished and realistic, the children do not dare to dream, and Abu Raed begins reflecting upon an unfulfilled life.

A merging storyline follows Nour, an actual pilot, who befriends the lonely old man as they continually cross paths in the terminal. Hailing from a wealthy family, she symbolises the modern day pressures for women in Jordan as she contemplates her future under the imposition of her father. As she and Abu Raed cement a friendship, they cross societal boundaries that still exist in the contemporary Middle East. Poverty versus wealth, haves and the have-nots, the two find unspoken solace in each other.

When Murad, another neighbourhood boy, becomes skeptical of the ‘Captain,’ he makes it his mission to reveal Abu Raed’s secret. A realist, Murad knows there is no escaping his future, as his drunken father solidifies it with every violent blow. The film poignantly touches on this sensitive issue of domestic violence and child abuse.

The story ultimately revolves around sacrifice. Abu Raed fears he’s lived a mundane life, as he lives vicariously through his extensive library. But unbeknown to the ‘Captain,’ he instills a sense of value in the neighborhood children, and a sense of purpose in Nour.

A masterpiece of cinematography, writing, and acting, “Captain Abu Raed” needs no prior context. There is a beauty in its simplicity, a sadness in its realism, and a yearning in its inspiration. A triumph for all the invisible people in our world who change our lives forever.


What: Captain Abu Raed

When: Check local cinema times

Where: Showing at Grand Cineplex (Next to Wafi City)

Info: www.captainaburaed.com

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