Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Captain Abu Raed
Amin Matalqa, director & script
Starring: Nadim Sawalha (Abu Raed), Rana Sultan (Nour), Hussein Al-Sous (Murad), Udey Al-Qiddissi (Tareq), Ghandi Saber (Abu Murad), Dina Raad-Yaghnam (Um Murad), Mohammad Qteshat (Hillal)
Jordan’s entry into the Academy Award best foreign film sweepstakes and the Sundance Film Festival audience prize winner, Captain Abu Raed is a character study of an old janitor at the Royal Jordanian Airport, who dresses as a pilot to tell the local children stories of his high adventures. As played by Nadim Sawalha, the good Captain is sweet-tempered, peaceful and a wonderful storyteller.
Gradually, shadows deepen and it becomes clear that the Murad children—part of Raed’s audience—are suffering terribly due to their father’s drunken abusive behaviour. Their tale is contrasted with Nour, a beautiful upper-class woman, who is a respected pilot but suffers at home due to her father’s humiliating attempts to marry her off to any reasonable suitor. Nour befriends Raed and eventually finds out his sad tale: an only child, a boy, committed suicide and Um (Mrs.) Raed soon joined him in death, due to illness and despair.
Even in peaceful Jordan, parents can’t relate properly to their children but Raed and Nour do one thing right: they save Murad’s family. There’s only one problem—Raed insists on confronting the brutal father Abu Murad, in an ill-conceived desire to save his life. Curiously, Captain Abu Raed feels like a tale of Christian sacrifice; this must be the Muslim version of that form of piety and humility.
Sweet and slow-paced, this film lacks pace and challenging story twists. It will find its audience as a DVD.