Amin Matalqa’s Captain Abu Raed //
Finding himself alone in an ill-fated world in which the tragedy of loss casts a lonely shadow over life, Captain Abu Raed finds solace in the enlightened world of literature. A dignified man of modest means, his job as an airport janitor adds dimension to the expanse of experience garnered through his vast library of books. The airport is where he encounters not only people from all over the world, but one day, a discarded pilot’s hat in the trashcan. In the eyes of the children from his humble neighborhood, this new hat projects him as an airplane captain hailing from an exciting universe of adventure. In realizing that their persistent desire to hear tales of the world beyond reflects his keen affinity for literature, Captain Abu Raed regales the children with stories that captivate their abounding imaginations. “When I was a little boy,” he tells them, “I had dreams …” in sharing those dreams with them, he inspires a sense of excitement and hope for himself and the children alike.
The brilliance of this film is captured in its perfect juxtaposition of a world empowered by dreams to the harsh realities of life’s everyday struggles. Director Amin Matalqa carefully illuminates some of society’s greatest challenges. He brings thoughtful attention to the heart-wrenching pain of domestic violence as well as to poverty’s disenfranchisement of a child’s right to education through forced labor. Additionally, he explores the intersections of different socioeconomic classes via the mediums of friendship and trust. Through the story of a pilot named Nour, the film relates the experience of enduring the cruel void of yearning for companionship without finding an individual with whom to share life’s joys. With an incredible level of sophistication and wisdom, the movie reflects on society’s misgivings and its effects on the inner depths of human emotion.
The film is elegant in every possible aspect—from the cinematography to the acting to the musical score—and its beautiful images will linger pleasantly in your mind long after it has stopped rolling. Matalqa captures the most precious of moments with his lens, those such as Captain Abu Raed sharing tea with the remembrance of his late wife on their rooftop terrace overlooking the cityscape of Amman cast in the tranquil light of dusk, or the nostalgic image of boys hanging liberated arms outside of a moving car window marveling as the forces of wind simulate the sensation of airplane wings taking flight, or the joyful laughter of children reveling in stories of adventure under a sun-splashed crystal blue sky backdrop amidst the stone facades of the old city, their eyes lighting up with visions that assuredly transcend the narrow horizons imposed upon them by the imbalances of society.
Ultimately, Captain Abu Raed is a film that reminds us of the true meaning of heroism. It lies not in the hollow glamour of modern day sensationalism, but rather in the often unheard footsteps of everyday people standing up for the integrity of what is right. Although the Abu Raeds of this world rarely bask in the glory of their greatness, this film may serve as a tribute to all of the incredible, yet humble people that enrich humanity with every day of their lives.
In the meantime, check out the trailer…
About the Author: Half-Korean, Half-Egyptian, and having lived and worked with inspiring children in Southeastern Africa and throughout Central and South America, Nader Kim El-Mallawany revels in the diverse richness of the human spirit that shines brightly throughout all reaches of our world. With love for his family and brethren … and in hopes that justice, tranquility, and human kinship will prevail within our lifetimes … he is ever grateful for the celebration of life that art graciously enlightens upon us all.