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A Jordanian-American's First Feature Film

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Captain Abu Raed

Captain Abu Raed

'Captain Abu Raed,' the first film from Jordanian-American film maker Amin Matalqa, opens this week. The captain in question would like to have traveled around the world. But he's actually an airport janitor. Kids in his community don't know that though, they mistake him for a pilot. He indulges their fantasies with stories he invents about his supposed travels, stories that end up inspiring the kids and giving them hope.

Listen to the entire interview

Amy Eddings: I just saw the excellent movie 'Hurt Locker' filmed in Jordan. What are the logistical issues of filming there?

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Finding The Hat
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Amin Matalqa: It's funny because 'Hurt Locker' was shot with some of the same crew that worked on 'Captain Abu Raed.' They shot the week after we finished shooting. Some of the locals who we brought with us, about a dozen crew from LA, the department heads. We pieced a crew together...some crew from Jordan, some from Tunisia, some from Lebanon and some from Morocco. They ended up staying. In 2003, they started the Royal Commission to encourage local film making. So there are a lot of short films being made right now, telling local stories and getting their way toward feature films.

They are also inviting a lot of foreign films over -- Hollywood films -- to come shoot in Jordan. 'Transformers' is shooting some scenes in Jordan. You're seeing a lot more production there.

Eddings: AIs it an aim of yours to help develop the film industry in Jordan?

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Becoming Captain Abu Raed
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Matalqa: Making 'Captain Abu Raed' became this very satisfying spiritual experience for all of us My goal initially is selfish, I just want to make my own movie. But then, this experience has bloomed and kind of inspired, I think, a few people over there. It's inspired me to return, too, and be continuously involved. If I can help make a difference in one way or another through the story that I am enjoying making, then yes, definitely. I plan to make American films just as much, but there's something very satisfying being in a piece of the history with the emerging film industry in Jordan.

Eddings: You talked about Charlie Chaplin. How has Charlie Chaplin been an inspiration for this film?

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Liar
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Matalqa: Well you know, the most famous character in cinema history probably would be the tramp. The tramp is the simple person, the simple man on the street who everyone ignores. Likewise Captain Abu Raed is just this simple janitor who people pass by. They don't really pay attention to him, but he actually has a lot to offer to the world. He's a Renaissance man in a lot of ways. I love that our actor, who is brilliant, he summed it up. He said to me 'Abu Raed is in this world but not of this world.' I hope that in 20, 50, 100 years when we look back -- this little film, whether it is Jordanian, it's not really -- it doesn't have a time stamp on it. It is a universal story. I'm a huge Chaplin fan. You know, it's amazing to me that actually it's just a five-minute walk from my place to his studio. I just walk down there some times for inspiration.

'Captain Abu Raed' opens Friday at the Angelika Film Center.

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