‘Abu Raed’ is hit at Maui Film Festival
Those who have followed my Maui Film Festival stories might wonder why I'm still so hot on the topic. I promise it's not just because I got to hang with Dennis Quaid
on the Wailea coast (more accurately: I waited in line to see him, Pierce Brosnan, Felicity Huffman
and Virginia Madsen
, and a person with a stopwatch hovered over us the entire time). The constant question: How to be in two or three places at once?
Though I managed to catch several films, I missed the much-anticipated "Captain Abu Raed." After watching the DVD screener, I understand the excitement. The first feature out of Jordan (yes, it's subtitled) won the World Cinema Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival and also walked away with the prize for best narrative feature in the category of World Cinema at the Maui Film Festival.
Written and directed by Amin Matalqa, the movie tells the story of a janitor at Amman's International Airport who comes home each evening and talks to his deceased wife's picture on the wall. One day, he finds a discarded airline captain's hat in the trash at work (two of my family members are captains, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't toss their decorated hats into the garbage, but we'll excuse this one false note). A neighborhood boy spots the hat on Abu Raed when he wears it home from work one day. Of course, all of the children in the somewhat poor area start believing he's a pilot and beg him for stories of his travels. After trying to deny the rumor, he acquiesces and entertains them with stories of the world - not difficult for a man who possesses 2,000 books. This goes on until one of the boys, abused daily by his father, becomes intent on proving that Abu Raed is a fraud.
The story grows more intricate as Abu Raed befriends a beautiful woman - an airline captain besieged by her upper-class family to marry well and marry soon. All of the plot lines connect unexpectedly. Magnificent in its subtlety, "Captain Abu Raed" is a story of everyday people intersecting across social boundaries. It is a story of "dreams, friendship, forgiveness, and sacrifice," according to press materials. The ending moved me to tears.
Filmmaker Matalqa grew up in Jordan before moving to Ohio when he was 13. He earned a business degree from Ohio State University and an MFA in directing from the American Film Institute. After making a host of short films, Matalqa journeyed back to Jordan to make his first feature film. Hopefully it will stop at the Movie Museum or Kahala Mall. If not, it's something to watch for on DVD.
"Chief," the film that preceded "Captain Abu Raed," also won an award for best narrative short at the Maui Film Festival. Writer/director Brett Wagner felt the two films "were sort of thematically connected," he said at the festival. "Somebody had given it a little thought."
Some of the 600 members of the Hawaii branch of the Screen Actors Guild plan to celebrate the 75th anniversary of SAG from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow at Kapiolani Park. Bring food, enjoy the games and celebrate the fact that there is no strike - for the moment.