Last night I had the fortune of getting to watch Mahmoud Massad’s award-winning documentary, “Recycle”. To say that it was a full house would be the understatement of the year. I watched the film from the floor of an aisle, while others hovered around the door, standing. I think the oxygen in the theater depleted right around the time the film ended. So suffice to say, Jordanians showed up to watch and support yet another local film that’s been making waves.
By now, most people know the storyline. A middle-aged religious resident of Zarqa struggles to make ends meet, mainly by trying to make a living through collecting and selling cardboard materials to the recycling plant. Meanwhile, the early life of Zarqawi is traced in parallel lines.
The film is essentially about the economics of extremism, and how unemployment and poverty create the perfect recipe for people to turn extremist, especially when a catalyst enters the fray: in this case, the American occupation of Iraq. The film is at times humorous and at times sad, depending on the unfolding of events. Abu Ammar is a complicated man and the film depicts him as such. He is at odds with the ideology of Al Qaeda and the events of September 11th in New York, not to mention November 9th in Amman, yet he believes a Muslim should not live or work in a non-Muslim nation. I think what’s interesting about the film is that it shows how economics can defeat pretty much everything, even religion, ideology, political beliefs, and culture. When one is forced to put food on the table for his children – in this case 8 – you can expect them to surrender even the most precious elements of their principles.
There is a very strong Jordanian-element that runs throughout the film and it’s evident every time a character says something concerning religion or politics. We have this tendency to know-it-all, even the least educated of us will give sermons as if they had tenure, and you can see that very clearly in the film. It is indicative to some extent, of how such talk creates more confusion and there are points in the film where Abu Ammar’s friend, who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, appears to be conflicted with what to believe over certain religious ideals.
Moreover, the film also arouses the debate of who is considered a moderate? Audience members will always differ as to whether Abu Ammar himself is a moderate or an extremist, and I suppose this stems back to the idea that most people see themselves as moderate and see others as being more to the left or right of the ideological spectrum. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t consider Abu Ammar a terrorist, yet for western audiences there may be the feeling that anyone on screen with a long beard and talking about Islam is a terrorist and thus this film is reduced to one which “humanizes” a terrorist. I don’t believe that to be true. I think Abu Ammar is merely a conduit through which audiences are presented with an understanding of how extremism is created, and the conditions in which it breeds.
This may be an unpopular look into Jordanian life, but it is nevertheless, a look.
I enjoyed the film and felt it was an accurate depiction of life in Zarqa, not to mention the impact of unemployment and poverty on a man’s psyche, let alone his beliefs. Massad won for best cinematography at Sundance in the World Cinema category, and I think that is one aspect of the filmmaking process that stood out throughout the documentary.
It is interesting to note that both Recycle and Captain Abu Raed are very unique and different films about different things and different perspectives, which allows them not to be in competition with each other. Both are brilliantly filmed and I believe that together, they have created a powerful benchmark for Jordanian filmmaking, be it a feature or a documentary.
Thank you for the excellent review.
There are key differences between Mahmoud Massad and Amin Matalqa in the way they were treated in Jordan is that Massad was ignored and received no support or token support even though he had prior successes–Shater Hasan–until his film Recycle won international acclaim and forced itself on the local scene despite persistent attempts to ignore Massad. Amin was showered with money and media coverage before he had any international presence until his film came out and the hype was gone. Massad did all the production by himself. Amin had a world-class production team to back him up. Massad did not even finish Tawhjihi and had no formal cinema education. Amin went to the American Film Institute. Massad’s film cost about 30,000 JD to make, with most of the money for editing and post production, after he shot his film secretively. If Massad asked for a permit to shoot his film, he would have been denied the premit, since films with lesser topics were rejected, and his dream would have been destroyed. Amin’s film cost 2,000,000 JD to make and had the whole official establishment behind him. Both filmmakers spend most of their time outside of Jordan. Both filmmakers grew up in Jordan. Bottom line, no money or film school can get in the way of anyone with a dream. But it’s evident that a filmmaker steeped in the European filmmaking traditions from the Jordanian underclass will never by outrun by someone steeped in the American filmmaking traditions with a silver spoon, unless you plan to make a slasher film or the Matrix.
certainly one of the best movies i watched recently. the production quality is superb and mahmoud massad’s inherent creativity cannot be denied. he is also a very pleasant and humble person. unfortunately, some were not very enthusiastic about the the movie because it did not print a rosy picture of jordan, and by that i mean an aerial shot of the abdoon brdige. this documentary is being used now in some classes to teach about the sociology of the middle east.
agree jameed. one thing i like about both massad and matalqa’s films is that they both touch on nasty subjects that we tend to shove under the rug. naturally, social criticism is welcome in Jordan at the official level since it deals with the problem of TA7’ALLOUF and provides a safe fodder for debates to the other nasty problem of injustice-born extremism. this is a very unpleasant subject since it opens to discussion the whole idea of lack of fairness and corruption in non-democratic societies such as jordan and how that plays out in the lives of vulnerable classes who form the majority of jordanians.
Can I see this movie in NYC?
Zahi, I agree with most of what you say, except the implication you leave that Matalqa did not work hard for his movie. That’s very untrue. To be able to produce films of the quality of “Captain Abu Raed” you have to be a very hard-working person.
hareega, amin had the support of a cast and crew of 100 people as he often says. with production managers, producers, cinematographers, publicists, the state behind him. i am sure he worked hard. but he had dozens running around working for him too to help him make the first jordanian feature film. we have to confront the other uncomfortable issue, other than domestic violence and extremism in jordan, and that’s the problems of favoritism, cronyism, arbitrariness, and lack of ethics. not everyone can be a Mahmoud Massad and succeed against all odds and obstacles, most state created. And just as the problem exists on the filmmaking front, I have no doubt it exists on all fronts from the commercial to the academic. in any society, fairness plays a key role in advancing or retarding progress.
oh and one more thing. tokenism is no substitute for real fairness. hugging a poor kid before a camera to show commitment to the underclass is cynical. All the while, hard resources tends to flow in the direction of the mediocre and the connected. We tend to do lots of that in jordan. but everyone know this. that’s why most Jordanians excel everywhere else but in Jordan.
I can’t help but respond to this ignorance. You do realize that there’s a big difference between making a documentary and making a feature film, no? It’s like apples and oranges. Making features requires multiple departments (Cinematography, Grip/Electric, Production Design, Sound, Wardrobe, Locations, Catering…etc) and lots of preplanning to create a fictional world. Making a documentary requires a video camera, a sound-man, and a subject. You discover the material while you film it. Features cost money, documentaries can be made for very little money.
Nobody threw money at us. We had to, like any business, approach people with proposals and a business plan, many many presentations… etc. The bottom line is that it’s really stupid and ignorant to compare the two.
I congratulate Mahmoud on his massive accomplishment. He’s a great guy and we got to hang out together at Sundance. He deserves all the support.
I really want to ignore the cynics, but I think this is an opportunity to educate them a little bit… maybe. But then again, it’s hard to penetrate thick skulls.
I don’t understand why people are comparing the two movies or the two directors? Just because they are both Jordanians – or jordan related issues does not make them comparable. One is a documentary the other is a film, they are completely different.
More importantly, I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to comprehend that someone who has been blessed with a good life and good opportunities would want to help make a difference in the lives of a few underprivileged boys from refugee camps. Now that’s cynicism.
The whole message of the film is that people can make a difference in each other’s lives. I think you’re inspiring me to wage a war on Jordanian cynicism. So maybe I owe you a thank you for that.
amin: thank you for the insults. i hope you accept criticism with open mind. you are a public figure now. so you will have to develop a thicker skin.
most people would kill for 2 million $$. no one expects you to say you did not deserve the 2 million for your film. that would ago against human nature. but acknowledge that effort and talent were not the only factors and we would call it even.
as for you claims about budget, i did some search on google and did not take me long to see that documentary films can also cost as much as your film and can involve a large crew. massad was smart enough to pick a story that he can do with his personal money knowing he cant count on the same sources you did.
even if we go along with your argument, lets assume massad’s film costs 100,000 dollars. massad did not get 5% of your budget. if you meet massad you will find out he knows the film business well. but not his “proposals and a business plan, many many presentations” worked for him. wonder why.
for those who know the names of some of the actors in your film, it’s no secret that many of them work in RFC and other government offices. in many places, they call that cronyiesm.
considering you are a good filmmaker but not the most talented filmmaker in jordan, there is no rational explanation for all the support you got. assuming we agree that youtube films are not a test of a filmmaker’s talent. how come Mohammad Aziziyah, the great jordanian TV director who is also a US grad and who had dreams of making feature films, never got a break? what about Mutaz Jankot and his many festival awards. What about Eyad Daoud and his award winning films? ammar qutteneh? etc. you probably never heard of them.
as for the ethics part, who was making false claims about first films as if no one else existed and as if others did not matter. you are quick to get offended. but did it not occur to you that while you were trying to cancel the work of those before you that this will hurt them deeply. respect is a two way street. show some respect to get some.
these are all legitimate observations and I suggest you answer them instead of insulting your critics. sometimes the best answer is to say I am sorry. you can win so many people over with a simple I am sorry.
“someone who has been blessed with a good life and good opportunities”
no problem with the good life part. it’s the opputuniteis part that we need to talk about.
in fair, merit-based societies, opportunities avail themselves to the best prepared. in corrupt societies, we have wasta. Wasta is not a fair shot at an opportunity . It’s a devastating form of corruption that tears social fabric, undermines people’s sense of belonging, and destroys the whole notion that excellence and not connections will be the deciding factor as to who will get what. few people consider youtube clips excellence in filmmaking.
so please don’t use the term opportunity to describe what happened to you. there are better choice words for that, considering others have proven themselves but are still on the sidelines.
Just to show you how out of touch with reality you are:
– Matalqa did NOT insult you (calling someone a cynic is not an insult).
– You did not criticize as much as you insulted him.
– He is NOT a public figure.
– 2 Million dollars did not go to his pocket. They were used to rent equipment and pay the wages of the 100 people who worked on the film that you seem to have a problem with.
– The nature of the two films is very different as has already been pointed out to you.
Basically, you have a problem with Amin Matalqa because he did not make a movie about the politics of the region. And for some reason you have a problem with him because he managed to secure funding for his project. As if any film maker, including Massad, would turn away funding or support for a project. If Massad himself read your comments, I think he would set you straight.
There is an expression used to describe people with your reaction. The polite people call it “cynicism,” but we in Jordan call it something else, and feel free to consider it an insult because it is, it’s called “nafsiyyat m7amda.”
Not everyone who’s had a good opportunity to do something in Jordan managed because of wasta. The premise of your argument is false.
Since you are talking about a specific person here, you have to be able to present specific evidence that backs your argument. Otherwise, it’s better to keep quiet.
Wow, Amin!!! I mean Jordanian. Such hostility. I am glad we are not setting face to face. you probably would have jumped me.
I don’t understand the hostilities here
Massad and Matalqa are both our brothers and sons and we as Jordanians should all be so proud of them and support them for their achievement. Be it large or small. The end result is that they both well represent us, and our movie industry. Which is still in it’s infancy and we all need to look at the brighter side of things.
I hope this new trend continues and I hope Amin and Masaad have more chances in the future to shine and prove that we, as Jordanians, can conquer this market which has not been very hospitable.
Be it talent or good fortune, it doesn’t matter. I hope they both continue to win and make all of us even more proud.
qwider, i am afraid it’s never that simple. jordan needs to evolve into a meritocracy if it is to move ahead and become a modern country. we all agree wasta is killing us. we need equal opportunity. who knows, if a talented filmmaker got the same break, they may have taken jordanian cinema to the Oscars. Jordan is a poor country and every million counts. we can’t keep running our resources like it’s someone’s personal piggy bank.
Sorry, but it was the tone in your last paragraph, mainly the sentence: “so please donâ€™t use the term opportunity to describe what happened to you.”
Just because this guy was able to study film in the US doesn’t mean he was unfairly more privileged than you or me. So to imply that “what happened to him” was more than an “opportunity” finding its way is rather vile without any proof or backing.
Maybe it’s just the Arab in me that’s enjoying this argument, but I have to say this is fun. Where do you jump to the conclusion of Wasta and Cronyism? This is hilarious. You must be upset because I didn’t cast TV soap actors in my film. All the kids came from unknown backgrounds and from the poorest parts of the country. This is cronyism? There are a few small one or two scene roles that I cast people who worked at the RFC in because they are talented and chose to work at he RFC because they were interested in film. Of course I’m going to give them a chance to be in the film.
Anyways, this argument is over as far as I’m concerned. The bottom line is that no matter what one does, and how successful they are, you will always have those bitter few who would rather self-destruct than do something productive. I speak out not because I don’t have thick skin, but because people make false allegations like Wasta and bullshit conclusions that have no basis. We raised the funding on the merits of the script which I worked tirelessly to perfect as a foundation for a high quality film of international standards.
My last piece of advice to you cynics is this: build instead of trying to destroy. Make opportunities for yourselves instead of living in self-pity. Believe in something and change your attitude because that is they mentality that holds Jordan back. I’m not your enemy. You are your own worst enemy if you stay like this.
cronyism: the cast is full of Film commission staffers and other gov types.
wasta: before you got your film support, you were the least accomplished filmmaker of a group of filmmakers who had a track record.
ethics: you made false claims about your film being 1st Jordanian film. you hurt many people in the process. you are not correcting the lie outside the blogs. locally, you were forced to correct the lie because of outcry. you knew about Struggle in Jarash but you still lied. as for Oriental Tales, Najdat is jordanian and syrian. and pleased do not make up rules about the relationship between funding and the film’s origin. 90% of the best Arab films are foreign funded. that does not make them French. paradise now is palestinian, caramel is Lebanese. Hollywood is full of films made by non-Americans. . are you saying films made by Roman Polanski were Polish? please don’t do this to yourself.
Amin, on your blog you say that only films funded by Jordan can be considered Jordanian. Are you saying because Mahmoud Massad was denied local funding and support his film is not a Jordanian film? man, you are on the roll. you just keep offending.
First of all: Krazy, Shafaf and Far3oneh, Zahi and fareed, can you please stick to one identity, it’s just plain rude to wear a disguise to a debate, and it frankly confuses people.
Second of all: based on how you’ve described the behind-the-scenes of CAR, it appears you know very little about it.
Third of all: my mention of CAR in this particular review is because both movies were brilliantly done and both movies, in my opinion, have set a benchmark for making films in Jordan, whether you like them or not, whether you’re a fan of their makers or not. The mention was by of saying that both films are deserving of the accolades they’ve received and both filmmakers will, i’m sure, go on to do brilliant things in the future.
can we stick to the spirit of such notions instead of wandering in to the land of accusations, finger pointing and witch hunts, of which no good can emerge?
if it helps, remember that we are all Jordanian at the end of the day, and it is an obligation to honor that spirit.
Just one question….. I would like to watch ‘ recycle ‘. I just don’t know where ?? Can anyone help ? thx
Can anyone tell me where I can watch ‘ recycle ‘ ?
This is a reply to a post by Matalqa on his blog. since he will undoubtedly delete my reply I hope people get the chance to read a rebuttal here.
Amin: First of all the film Captain Abu Raed is unexceptional. I am also one of those people who have to take into consideration the director behind the film. I am disappointed with Amin Matalqa’s reply to a comment by Elia.
Mr. Matalqa claims his film is Jordanian because it’s 100% Jordanian funded. Does that mean other Jordanian films who were denied funding by local Jordanian sources because they don’t have Mr. Matalqa’s connections that those films are not Jordanian films? Famous Jordanian director Mahmoud Massad, maker of the award-wining documentary Recycle (winner of Sundance World Cinematography Award) did not receive a penny of support in Jordan. So he won a few funding competitions at the Berlinale World Cinema Fund and San Sebastian. Mr. Matalqa wants to tell us that Mr. Mahmoud Massad’s film is not Jordanian. That’s fantastic. So all a third world regime has to do is to make laws forbidding funding for filmmakers they don’t like and that makes these black-listed films foreign films? I am glad film festivals do not go by Mr. Matalqa’s definition of a national film.
Then Mr. Matalqa attacks Najdat Anzour’s film Oriental Tale (1991) accusing it of not being a Jordanian film because Mr. Anzour is not Jordanian. But the actors and the script and the shooting location are Jordanians. And by the way, Najdat Anzour has the Jordanian passport. That makes him Jordanian as well as Syrian.
But even if the film follows the nationality of the filmmaker, does that mean all of Roman Polanski’s films are French or Polish? There are other Hollywood filmmakers who are not American. Yet there films classify as Americans. Mr. Matalqa wants to change all of that just for his film’s sake and to exclude other Jordanian films and filmmakers from the spot light. Too drastic.
Mr. Matalqa claims that because a film is French funded, that it’s not Jordanian. That means 90% of films made in the third world are French or German or Italian films? What about countries that can’t afford to fund films. What about repressive regimes who ban funding for filmmakers critical of the status quo? It would be a great day for repression if Mr. Matalqa gets his way with his new funding criteria and national identity.
As for the Jordanian feature film the Mission (2007), again Mr. Matalqa insults the filmmakers by making fantastic statements as to why his film is still number one. He says “The Mission was filmed in July 2007, one month after Captain Abu Raed” So? it was screened before Captain Abu Raed in Jordan. This must be a new role where the film’s year of production is decided by the day the camera starts rolling for the first time.
“and was never released in cinemas nor festivals.” Another bizarre rule Mr. Matalqa invented. Many films screen in art houses and cultural centers and not paid commercial theaters. They still count as films. They still exist. The Mission is a film that was made and screened in Jordan in more than one cultural center under the patronage of royalty. It’s a real film.
“I also understand it was shot with TV video cameras” Again, Mr. Matalqa denigrates the film because of the limited means of the filmmaker. We know of films that had won international acclaim that shot with a simple video camera. That’s the whole idea behind Dogme 95 and other film-making schools. Even Oliver Stone used a TV video camera to make some of his great films.
Mr. Matalqa is so eager to monopolize the spotlight that he is willing to hurt so many other filmmakers and to change the whole international system by which films are classified and judged. Wouldn’t be much easier to make a good film and leave us to decide? I hope Mr. Matalqa changes his stance instead of digging deeper and deeper and offending more and more people.
It’s all about the quality of the film. So give it a rest Mr. Matalqa.
NAS: “if it helps, remember that we are all Jordanian at the end of the day, and it is an obligation to honor that spirit.”
Agree 100%. May I suggest we start by not pissing allover Jordanians that had come before Amin. Camaraderie is a two way street. Amin needs to show some of that before he or anyone plays the patriotism card. Before his film even screened, Amin was going around trashing the memory of Jordanian cinema pioneers. Then he goes on to question the contributions and Jordanianhood of his compatriots’ films.
There are limits to how much crap we can take before someone feels the need to set the record straight. It’s one thing to have the opportunity to make your dream film, but it’s totally something else to use your leverage and connections to try to wipe out the accomplishments of other Jordanians. What arrogance.
When Amin learns to respect the contributions of other Jordanian, we will show him the same respect.
AMIN “build instead of trying to destroy.”
Amin, that’s my advice to you too. Respect the work of those who had come before you and those who are your compatriots. Do not dismiss them. Do not question their work’s authenticity. DO NOT DESTROY, BUILD. Practice what you preach.
The story line of recycle had a lot of holes in it, yes it is a documentary but the story and scenes should tie together. the movie doesn’t explain why Abu Ammar has problems with his father that forced him to close down his “herb” shop (3a66ar) which i think is relevant and important since it is about the economics of terrorism. The story is (after asking Massad after the movie) is that The father is upset with his son for marrying his cousin (the second wife who miscarried) and for attempting to write a book of a7adeeth regarding Jihad which is why during the movie he is shown to sneak into his old shop dig up his scraps and quotes secretly. Abu Ammar as a business owner would’ve probably been a different man if he was allowed to open his shop, he wouldn’t have to go get cars from Iraq or collect cardboard for recycling.
What pissed me off about the movie is how can you have tens of hours of footage and Abu Ammar had nothing to say about Amman’s November 9th bombings? to make a story complete you should introduce that because really that is the reason why he was held for questioning for what was it? 4 months? What happened to Abu Ammar during those months in jail? does the Jordanian mokhabarat beat the ideologies and terrorist beliefs out of him that he is now ok with working and living in countries of infidels?
I watched this movie with a western audience and no i don’t always want a rosy picture of Jordan, but a disclaimer of what things are and how they are twisted and abused is necessary. How do you expect an American non muslim to watch this movie and not think that Ahadeth and Islamic religion are the source of terrorism? Yes Massad added new deeper dimensions in the presentation of religious extremists, Abu Ammar is a family man and poverty is a driving factor stronger than ideals, but he still enforced negative stereotypes about Muslims. in the multiple scenes about the purchase of camel’s milk for his mother’s illness what’s the story there? did it fly over my head or is really just to show that these hypocrite Muslim men who one day swear in the name of Allah that the milk is free for the sick, will change the next day and charge you whatever JD’s a bottle after the haggle. it’s all about the money after all.
A documentary should be made with the audience in mind, when this movie plays in Jordan or any Arabian country it’s relevant and the audience can do most of the fill in the blanks, but i think to the western audience you need disclaimers and explanations or else you are enforcing negative stereotypes.
I watched a documentary about sex change in Iran with themes more complicated than those tackled in this movie, the movie fully explained the prevalence of sex reassignment surgeries, the khomaini’s fatwa, what is prohibited and allowed from an Islamic point of view while telling the personal stories of those in the documentary. That’s how intimately informative documentaries should be told.
I think RFC can advise you (ME) where and how to watch recycle.
MAHA >>> to the western audience you need disclaimers and explanations or else you are enforcing negative stereotypes.
That’s what I did not like about Recycle and Captain Abu Raed. They both show us as radicals, poor, and unfair people. I know Matalqa tried to show an independent women-Rana Sultan-but it was not believable. I guess maybe we are not is such a great shape as a country. so the question becomes is film a tool for pure propaganda, entertainment, or a tool to address social problems among other things. in a country like jordan, it’s totally dishonest to make films detached form our harsh reality. we are an unjust society, like all non-democratic societies. we have serious social and political problems. in that sense, I applaud both Matalqa and Massad’s courage. If we want to combat negative stereotypes we should demand our government fix the mess it has created. poverty, repression, and injustice breed extremism. if any, both Matalqa and Massad tried to show it from a different angle. Massad’s treatment of Abu Ammar was brilliant. he made us feel for the human being. he made us think about the causes behind radicalism. about how a better life for Abu Ammar would have produced a productive member of society. same for Matalqa, even though his film is steeped in the traditions of shame (the shame of being a janitor), Matalqa does show us child labor.
A movie maker can try all day…everyday to come up with a movie that encompasses all aspects of Jordanian life, a tiny country of 6 million people that most can’t locate on the map, with extremes of wealth and poverty, beauty and abuse, religion and politics; He/She will never succeed unless they come up with a Borat like, hindi length movie that ends with the noble king and dirt poor terrorist sharing a sarvees driving into the sunset and the whole story then turns out to be 3ar6et shofair.
You can’t show it all in one movie, just make a movie about each aspect alone. It’s just that whatever you do show make it true. Tell the whole story. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman pilot or rocket scientist your parents will still want to marry you off, and that’s a fact. Every bearded muslim is linked to extremists or terrorists..NOT a fact. One review of “Recycle” says referencing Al Zarqawi “Abu Amar and his friends note that the terrorist superstar was a mere city hall clerk and completely non-religious before a sudden immersion in Islam. This shift often comes about with alcoholics who turn their lives around with this culture’s only equivalent to AA — regular Friday visits to the local mosque, and devotion to the Koran.” and that’s the life cycle of the Islamic terrorist bread from cradle to blow up. AM i the only one who finds this a negative stereotype enforced by the movie?
breed not bread …2 lines up from the end 😀
just want to congrats massad for his super film. it took him 3 years to finish him! its not that easy thing..
and if somebody did fight about who is better, amin or massad? i believe this is a healthy ting, some how! beacause later on we should see more of this great initiatives and huge productions..
i enjoyed the film a lot. it was the best documentary movies i ever seen! i enjoyed reading the review. thanx Nas 🙂
My movie is better than yours …losers
I have to say I found everyoneâ€™s comments quite interesting. Now looking originally at the first blog, I must say, we sure got off subject. The blog was about Recycle and only Maha seemed to have a critical perspective on the film. Other than that, everyone wanted to do a character critic of the creators rather than what they created. I feel the Jordanian community always seems to lose touch of what is created and looks more into who created it. Looking at both is important!
Now, on the battle between Amin and Mahmoud, (not Recycle and Captain Abu Raed) it seems Amin is saying he went through the institutional system of filmmaking and worked long and hard to make the film. No doubt, getting a budget for 2 million isnâ€™t an easy task at all. Managing a crew of 100 people takes skill on its own. And being well networked and government support should not always be considered a wasta. Amin found endorsement and he went for it. At the same time, we have Mahmoud, who has a fantastic eye for documentary filmmaking, a great sense of stories and was able to sniff out a fantastic character in his life who seemed to encompass what he believes represents Jordanian struggles and lifestyle. So, why is everyone taking this as if Amin had a silver spoon in his mouth and Mahmoud was found on the street. It is cruel to generalize them into such categories! Because neither is true! If you ask me both of them seemed to have their obstacles they had to face and each found solutions to their obstacles.
So, why canâ€™t people see the situation like this:
If you can put your mind to something it can be done! All you have to do is use your resources! If you are fortunate enough to have a foreign education and background in filmmaking â€“ you can do it! Amin certainly did! And Amin tried to help as many people along the wayâ€¦ And if you came from a life of hardship, lack of a strong social network, zero budget, – you can still do it!!! Mahmoud certainly did and he opened our eyes to what life is like in Zarqa!!!! His film is full of depth because of the hardships he experienced first hand. Because of the stories of peopleâ€™s lives he witnessed! You can do anything you want, with or without government support. Itâ€™s your choice which path you choose and which path accepts you! Amin got government support, via RFC no doubt and with it came cinema distributions, press releases and pictures with the HM Queen Rania Al Abduallah. Mahmoud may not be getting minimal/close to none support from the RFC and government, but he got support from abroad and his talent got him the Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival. What an accomplishment! And thanks to Mahmoudâ€™s fans and supporters, he is finally getting credit locally.
So bottom line: Thank you guys for reminding us, if we have the vision, skill and talent we can accomplish anything. Accomplish it and the rest is history! If you do a great job you can get government support and/or support from the fans to lift you up!
(And Mahmoud, I would like to say thank you for reminding us to take success with grace and showing us the advantages of being humble after our accomplishments!)
I was one of those who attended the screening and I have to say that I enjoyed Massad’s film very much. I found it to be very deep, portraying one very realistic angle of a Jordanian life.
I would like to comment on Maha’s post regarding the wholes in the story. This is the way Massad chose to portray his character. He did not create the story of the main character’s life. He chose to merely portray what he believed were “important” aspects of his life. I believe that the film had one very clear message which did come across loud and clear.
“Every bearded Muslim is linked to extremists or terrorists..NOT a fact”. No it is not a fact. And by watching the film, I can confidently say that Massad did not, in any way, hint to such a conclusion.
As for being concerned about what foreigners think, westerners make short films about drug addicts all the time, how come no one ever generalises that ALL westerners are drug addict? If any westerners watches this movie and concludes that ALL bearded muslims are terrorists, then I would urge this foreigner to educate themselves on Islam and Middle east sociology.
Nada, this is not about luck vs hard work only, or who made the better film. the character of the director is also at issue here. Amin Matalqa from day one made some outlandish and dishonest claims and only under pressure did he start to retract. from alleging his film Captain Abu Raed is the first Jordanian feature movie to claiming his film is first in 50 years then in 30 year. Then Amin Matalqa claims that he is the one who will open doors to Jordanian filmmakers as if no other Jordanian filmmakers existed before him and as if no other people have been opening doors to Jordanian film-makers before he arrived. Massad kept to himself and to his film-making. Amin Matalqa tries so hard to destroy what others have accomplished. This selfishness and dishonesty is deeply troubling especially coming from a guy who is being groomed by the powers that be to become the one and only symbol of Jordanian cinema past, present, and the future.
â€œEvery bearded Muslim is linked to extremists or terrorists..NOT a factâ€. No it is not a fact. And by watching the film, I can confidently say that Massad did not, in any way, hint to such a conclusion.
I didn’t say i personally got that conclusion out of the movie but others did as apparent from the movie review that i quoted, a documentary as raw and unfiltered as recycle will enforce negative stereotypes about islam, you know what khalas it is what it is… i am defending the image and perception of what it should be.
Recycle…terrorists recycle extreme islamic ideologies, from one generation to another from one country to another ..garbage used over and over again.
All you people who are turning discussions about Recycle or CAR into a Jordanian directors bash and feud are pathetic losers…khalas 3aad garaftoona with the pointless BS. Who are you people?? you pretend to care so much about the history and legacy of the Jordanian movie industry only when it serves the bashing of whatever attempts by the likes of Matalqa and Massad to revive it!!!
Maha: I disagree. these are healthy debates and I think people will form their opinion anyway and the films will make it on their own merit. there was so much history that i was ignorant of. that’s the nature of blogging. it’s not like these discussions are being aired on prime time TV or on the front pages on the LA Times. This is an internal discussion on a blog that has been read by less than 600 visitors. I thank the commentators for their passion and for revealing so much behind the scenes facts that we were not aware of. blogging is a wonderful invention.
“it seems Amin is saying he went through the institutional system of filmmaking and worked long and hard to make the film.”
Please do not offend us with such statements. Amin never had to send a film to a film festival. You can make such a statement because the majority of readers are not from the industry and may believe you. It was an official decision to make Amin Matalqa THE Jordanian filmmaker. Amin got the red carpet treatment when he was making YouTube films. he has no film festival record whatsoever. He went from a telecom salesman to the American Film Institute and no one knows why even when over a dozen Jordanian filmmakers had established a track record. Then he came from the AFI with 2 million dollars waiting for him. Matalqa never participated in any script competition. Matalqa never had to do any of the things 99% of independent filmmakers do to get funding for their films. I have visited the website of every production market in europe and US. Amin Matalqa’s name was never mentioned in any of the production workshops or co-production markets which 100% of filmmakers I know had to participate to get their films funded. So please do not insult our intelligence. I know filmmakers who worked hard for their films. Matalqa is not one of them.
rawan, zoooom and karawan: can you please stick to one user name because otherwise my spam plugin is going to identify your IP as spam and that’ll just give me a headache.
also, your arguments will seem more credible coming from one identity as opposed to 3 or 4; i.e. you don’t have to go to the trouble of repeating yourself.
Silly Nas. an argument stands on its own. but maybe in some Jordanian circles the tribe’s name and wealth can make an argument more or less logical. the bigger the tribe, the more logical the argument. I think you shot yourself in the foot by advertising to your readers that you track IP addresses. Way to go Nas.
XXX: umm..it’s wordpress…your ip address is written right next to everyone’s name by default!!
also, if an argument stands on its own, why does one need to repeat it 4 times under 4 different identities? moreover, why does one need to resort to insulting people and their backgrounds? that doesn’t sound like someone whose confident in their argument now does it?
sniff sniff, i smell blood.
Does anyone know where this film can be found online?
I published the following article in The Star Weekly. I had the pleasure of meeting with both the director and his subject after the screening.
By Mike V.Derderian
Star staff writer
A fast edit shows us the backyard of a factory where a bulldozer is loading flat cardboard boxes.
As the roaring of the bulldozerâ€™s engine fades another edit takes us inside the factory where the cardboard boxes are stirred into a pulpy mesh in a large recycling container. The camera then reveals a drawing of an eye that soon sinks in the brown liquid.
The above scene is from Mahmoud Massadâ€™s 80-minute documentary Recycled through which we are introduced to Abu Ammar, a Jordanian former Jihadist.
Aided by his children Abu Ammar patrols the narrow streets of Zarqa to collect cardboard boxes and products to sell back to paper and cardboard manufacturing factories; it is Abu Ammarâ€™s way to earn a living and support his family after losing his nut shop to debts.
Massadâ€™s documentary is an exploration of the mentality of Abu Ammar, who fought alongside Afghan fighters before returning to his hometown in Zarqa.
Recycled is built upon all the right elements that constitute a good documentary and one of which is people with something to say no matter how simple it sounds. It has a well-paced flow and places the viewer in the state of mind of its struggling protagonist.
The camera follows Abu Ammar through his endless daily trials and tribulations in Zarqa, which is also the birthplace of notorious terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, who was responsible for Ammanâ€™s November 2005 tragic bombings.
Massad wanted to shed light on the environment from which people like Zarqawi come from through people, who knew and lived close to Zarqawi. â€œI wanted to explore the surroundings of such people,â€ Massad, who brushes politics as nonsense, continued, â€œI wanted to show normal people. My documentary is an honest depiction of normal people for a normal audienceâ€”truth as is. Western audiences were shocked to find out that such people are normal and are very much like them.â€
â€œAbu Ammarâ€™s character does not undergo recycling on a personal basis even though you might think he would,â€ Massad explained to The Star after the screening of Recycled on April 6 at Al-Hussein Cultural Center, â€œit is more about how he adapts.â€
Shot over a period of three years Massad wasnâ€™t sure that his documentary was going to be completed especially when Abu Ammar traveled to Iraq. â€œIt wasnâ€™t easy and we worked under pressure,â€ Massad, who was amazed by the large attendance, concluded, â€œmy next film will revolve around Jordanian humor. It will be about Jordanian emigrants and their dreams.â€
Abu Ammarâ€™s frustration turns into a well-constructed motif in Massadâ€™s documentary. He is shown working on his computer, which is stationed in the middle of his deserted nut shop.
In an earlier scene Abu Ammar takes out paper cutouts from a tattered bag lying around in the shop the he hopes to re-open one day. The stapled papers contain Qurâ€™anic verses and information about Islam that he collected and compiled over the years.
He has finished typing the text of a book he hopes to publish as soon as his finances allow him; the book deals with misconceptions that have infiltrated societies in recent years as to the Islamic code of behavior.
Abu Ammar, who is no longer collecting cardboard boxes for recycling, announced, â€œI am working as a driver for an engineer.â€
Even though he underwent physical change after being forced to shave his beard on two occasionsâ€”the first happening when he traveled to Iraq on a doomed business trip, where he was close to being executed by Iraqi insurgents and the second before boarding an airplane bound to South Americaâ€”, Abu Ammar, who was sporting a long and thick beard during the screening, stated that his convictions are as firm as ever.
â€œIt is wrong for a man to change his conviction; however, there is a difference between right and wrong. Manâ€™s conviction should be based on good values,â€ Abu Ammar said.
Massadâ€™s documentary invokes different emotions that range between joy and sadness; however, Abu Ammarâ€™s only moments of joy are when he is with his family especially his youngest offspring Abu Baker, a mischievous little rascal.
â€œRun over the camel,â€ Abu Baker tells his father, while heading to a camel farm to fetch milk. â€œWhy do you want me to run the camel?â€ his baffled father enquires.
Unable to improve his condition Abu Ammar eventually undergoes recycling near the end, a price to pay in order to travel in pursuit of hope and to provide for his family.
Recycled is simply about a manâ€™s struggle to fit back into society and Massadâ€™s visual comparison of man with paper is where his poetic panache lies.
Recycled as a documentary holds up pretty well on the screen. It is very interesting to watch the human aspect of individuals like Abu Ammar.
During the Q & A session I wanted to ask him if he regards me (a Jordanian Christian) an infidel like the Americans and foreigner he fought in Afghanistan and that he preaches against but being a journalist I had to stay objectiveâ€”the question was driven by emotions.
As I interviewed Abu Ammar after the screening Recycled somehow failed in the manner by which it presented its argument: The recycling process of his character was physical and not psychological or related to his beliefs.
The title did not coincide with ultimate conclusionâ€”he eventually changed the way he looked in order to be part of the system.
Still it is a great documentary but I was hoping that the physical change was accompanied by an inner changeâ€”a man has to survive not matter what and this is what Abu Ammar partially achieved.
There are loopholesâ€”nothing is pure the same way man is flawedâ€”but when a person is reviewing a movie the broader image should be taken into consideration. Some writers choose to write about faults over positive aspects like flow of narration, music and the emotions a movie can instill in a person.
Recycled is a touching tale of a manâ€™s struggle and how he is dealing with his reality. It was a brilliant idea to tackle the story of Abu Mosab Al Zarqawi and I believe that Massad helped set the record straight and that the people of Zarqa or Jordan are not terroristsâ€¦
Americans had their share of internal terrorism and bombings by American citizens before 9/11, when Arabs ended becoming scapegoats.
As for the attack on Amin Matalqaâ€¦I donâ€™t understand you peopleâ€¦this is a guy who had the balls to pursue his dream of making a feature. As for the first Jordanian movie in 50 yearsâ€¦you should all read the headlines that glorified the movie before it was even madeâ€¦there wasnâ€™t a magazine or a newspaper that didnâ€™t write about itâ€¦
I waited until it hit our local theatres and then passed my judgment. It isnâ€™t Aminâ€™s fault that Jordanians set up higher then heaven standards upon themselves and their children.
Captain Abu Raedâ€™s is Aminâ€™s story and it involves the hard work of passionate Jordaniansâ€”do you know how hard it is to get a movie off the ground.
You just ask Amin how he raised the money for Captain Abu Raed. It wasnâ€™t easy.
And what is this bullshit about nepotism and wasta. I applied for a workshop with Royal Film Commission and they took me after reading my application formâ€”I applied a day before the deadline and still made it does this mean I am bribing them with my articles or with my connections.
P.S: I am Armenian and Armenians donâ€™t have connections.
Amin wrote a good story about a man, who tries to make a difference. Captain Abu Raed failed to save one child but managed to save another. People fail all time and Amin captured Abu Raedâ€™s efforts in a beautifully shot movie.
And as for the not-realistic plot of having a strong and successful female in Jordanâ€”this is a load of bull as Jordan is now filled with young and successful females. Take a look at some of the major companies and private business that are growing so I guess a female commercial pilot is quite real.
In the end if you have a better story or a screenplay just go and try to do an ounce of what Amin did: Move your lazy asses of the daydreaming coach and fulfill your destiny.
Nas, of course you smell blood. it’s my blood and it’s boiling because I’m totally pissed off at the dishonesty and the arrogance. it’s one thing for someone to lie when he believes it will never be exposed. but it’s totally idiotic and utterly moronic to lie when everyone is a blog post away from knowing the truth. but maybe he did not think the stench will reach that far, thanks to the internet and SAT TV. here is a word of advice to all up and coming young Jordanian celebrities: you may bullshit all you want about your talent and brilliance; just don’t tread on others >:(
Mike, I saw and read sso many times what Amin say his film is the first feature film ever, then 50, then 30. I read many interviews where he makes this claim. friends saw it too. there is no escaping amin’s own words. it’s amin who submits the synopsis and the press kits to film festivals. they all said the same bullshit. why would you think the press releases all read the same. as for day dreaming, jordan is full of filmmakers who are busting their asses and making a name for themselves in film festivals but when they come home and ask for help, they get the token pat on the back. so don’t go bullshitting us about being lazy. this is the most disgusting accusation anyone ever made against those who toil day and night but never get a break because of their lack of connections and because of the deeply corrupt nature of the system, which you seem a beneficiary who are the only people who defend the rotten system.
Man…why is your blood boiling?
What connections are you talking about…just enter the RFC’s website…submit your movie script…and they’ll give you a camera…boom and mixer…connect you with the necessary people….
Disgusting or not disgusting accusation…how many films have won the Sundance Award? I’ve seen Ghandi Saber’s recording of the moment they announced Capain Abu Raed…standing ovation…call up Ghandi and he’ll send you a copy…
Lazy…I am talking about going the extra mile…contacting people…if you don’t get rejected how do you learn to get anywhere!
How many of you contacted Shoman, Al Balad Theatre, the Hussein Cultural Center, The Culture Palace, Dar Al Anda, or Darat Al Funun to screen his or her movie?
Dude don’t tell me about being part of the system…this ain’t the Matrix…there is no matrix…wake up as the lead vocalist in Rage Against the Machine would proudly shoutâ€¦.there is just us to fight back…
I’ve been invited to the shooting of Captain Abu Raed…but I couldn’t so I just waited to watch the end result…and it was quite an experienceâ€¦I didn’t go to Amin’s movie expecting Blade Runner or Cinema Paradisoâ€¦.i went there to watch the effort of over 200 peopleâ€¦.
If there was anyone who was willing to tear at the silver screen that nightâ€¦it was meâ€¦I’ve seen Amin’s shortsâ€¦they are not works of artâ€¦not the ones that I’ve sawâ€¦Saliba in the Bathroomâ€¦Sofi Sofiâ€¦
When I first heard of Amin’s movie? I wasn’t pretty excited especially with all the hypeâ€¦but when it was outâ€¦I decided that I was obligated to watch it and review itâ€¦I was smilingâ€¦laughingâ€¦not cryingâ€¦but touchedâ€¦the only movies that made me cry were Artificial Intelligence, Pan’s Labyrinth and Passion of the Christ (P.S I am not a devout Christian)â€¦
Amin’s movie made me realize that his script was the result of thinking of othersâ€¦.it was about a man wanting to helpâ€¦making a differenceâ€¦as simple as thatâ€¦does a movie have to be complex like Memento, Existence, Pulp Fiction, Eight and a Half and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to be hailed as greatâ€¦.or containing fast mind dazzling edits like Smoking Aces (which a very predictable movie), Wicker Park (brilliant edits) and The Graduate to be dubbed greatâ€¦! Noâ€¦..just focus on the storyline and narrativeâ€¦.and the flowâ€¦.
If there is anyone to blame for the First Jordanian Movie in 50 years it is newspapers and magazines…how many magazines covered the making of Captain Abu Raed…tell me..everyone from Amman to the South of the Borderâ€¦.
People were glamorizing Amin’s work long before the end result…film-making is a tough business especially in Jordan…if you don’t contact press nowadays…no one is willing to look at what you do…it is called marketing..
Man even painters, politicians, architects and artists have press kitsâ€¦how do you think reporters and journalist make a livingâ€¦.? I’ve seen a reporter compile a story from an invitation cardâ€¦
I don’t want to offend anyone…but it is so depressing to see Amin under so much fire, when all he tried to do is market his movie…
Show me one Jordanian movie that won an award that people remember? Without press reports and archives all is forgottenâ€¦did anyone bother to look up A Struggle in Jerash (the first movie in Jordan)â€¦a friend of mine who wrote for JO researched it but could not find a trace of itâ€¦e-mail me so I can give you his numberâ€¦.he’ll tell you what he found outâ€¦.this would have happened to Captain Abu Raed if Amin didn’t market itâ€¦and I am saying he told me it is the first Jordanian movie in 50 yearsâ€¦.
And why the XXX when you can address me with your real nameâ€¦.I showed you mine show me yoursâ€¦.It would be nice to know I am talking toâ€¦.
Pat on the back…do you know how many times i got pat on the back…i donâ€™t careâ€¦I just pick up from where I leftâ€¦and move onâ€¦not everyone says a thank you in this country if you do the right thingâ€¦some just want you to be down on the ground so they can step on youâ€¦.
This is a list of part of the movies that I have watchedâ€¦.
Blade Runner, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Party, Eight and a Half, Good Morning Vietnam, Wicker Park, Bus stop, Indiana Jones Trilogy, Star Wars (All Six Movies), Cop Story (Part I & II), Madagascar, The Matrix Trilogy plus The Animatrix, Artificial Intelligence: AI, Malena, Rocco e i suoi fratelli, Dances with Wolves, Disney’s Robin Hood, Disney’s The Jungle Book, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Rambo: First Blood, Tina, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Passion of the Christ, Radio Days (the only Woody Allan movie that i actually like and can stomach), Treasure Planet, The Sound of Music, Goldeneye, Dr.No, Casino Royal, The Machinest, Pulp Fiction, The Sting, Winning, Kill Bill (Volume 1&2), The Apartment, Rear Window, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Bishop’s Wife, Mayrig, Rio Bravo, True Grit, Monkey Business, Seven, Walk Don’t Run, Transformers, Notorious, Billy Rose’s Jumbo, Bill August’s Les Miserables, Lover Come Back, Nacho Libre, Mad Max, Murder By Death, Sionara, Terminator: Judgment Day, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Force Ten from Navaron, Witness, Doctor Zhivago, Die Hard (All four parts even though i really believe that Bruce Willis’s political views are full of bull) Nuovo cinema Paradiso, The Nines, Aliens, Something’s Gotta Give, Sayonara, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Charade, To Catch A Thief, The House of Cards, Joe Somebody, The Wild Bunch, The Godfather, Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, Captain Abu Raed and I am Legend.
Captain Abu Raed is one of themâ€¦as the clichÃ© goesâ€¦beauty is in the eye of the beholderâ€¦one man’s art is another’s trashâ€¦the above is only my opinion as a movie loverâ€¦Amin did a good jobâ€¦stop focusing on the first Jordanian movie in 50 years and look at the big pictureâ€¦on the silver screenâ€¦it is not badâ€¦
By the way no need to use nasty wordsâ€¦when all I used was lazy, which only means the following (Indolent, idle, lethargic, languid, sluggish, slothfulâ€¦unenergeticâ€¦etcâ€¦.)
By the way this is my e-mail:
email@example.com (long story don’t ask I was young when I picked my e-mail)
If anyone out there has a good movie, whether a short, feature or a documentary, he or she will have the same literary treatment of Massad’s and Amin’s movieâ€¦just pick up the card and dial that number (office number at Addustour 5608000 ext 0 ask for The Star Weekly)â€¦or in this case e-mail meâ€¦.
If you think the RFC is not going to help you just go and knock on their doorâ€¦e-mails and phone calls are never enoughâ€¦try to do it in personâ€¦.again moviemaking is not about connectionsâ€¦it is about who you contactâ€¦.
As for being part of the systemâ€¦oh you are so wrongâ€¦good dayâ€¦.
A Homo sapien trying to get a hold of a banana in a world governed by apesâ€¦.
This is my review of Captain Abu Raed that was published in The Star Weeklyâ€¦.just look at the bigger pictureâ€¦and yes the interviews that I conducted for a magazineâ€¦they are all the result of my appreciating Captain Abu Raedâ€¦writing doesn’t pay enough in this countryâ€¦.
But if you do it for the love of writingâ€¦it is worth the worldâ€¦.and the pat that you never getâ€¦
Captain Abu Raed makes perfect debut landing
By Mike Derderian
Star staff writer
No sooner I saw the main title Captain Abu Raed appear on the screen followed by Nadeem Sawalhaâ€™s genteel characterization of Abu Raed, a humble janitor forced to lie to the children of his neighborhood after being mistaken by one for a commercial airline captain, than I found myself somewhat at ease and realized that I am about to watch a good movie.
Written and directed by Jordanian filmmaker Amin Matalaqa, who created 26 shorts, Captain Abu Raed is not only the first Jordanian feature film in 50 years but is also the Jordanian feature movie that will most certainly motivate aspiring Jordanian filmmakers to start making more shorts and features for that matter.
â€œShort films are the training grounds for making feature films. I made 26 shorts before Captain Abu Raed. You learn so much by shooting on your own, editing on your own, acting… etc. Every short film I made was an exercise that benefited Captain Abu Raed. However, storytelling and writing are the most important,â€ Matalqa said.
Captain Abu Raed stars Hussein Al-Souse, Udey Al-Qadise, Muhammad Qteishat, Ghandi Saber, Lina Al-Tal, Ali Maher and Rana Sultan as Nour, a female commercial airline captain, who takes a friendly and humane interest in Abu Raed.
Captain Abu Raed is a Jordanian story that is about imagination, self-sacrifice and love as it is about personal freedom and the freedom to have a choice.
Matalqa told The Star by e-mail from Paris that Captain Abu Raedâ€™s story started in 2005.
â€œI had been accepted in 2005 into the American Film Instituteâ€™s directing MFA program. So I quit my job and decided to spend my summer writing a new feature screenplay before starting school. By May of that year, the Royal Film Commission had screened 12 of my short films and the audience was fantastic,â€ Matalqa stated.
Going from script to screen wasnâ€™t a sudden process. â€œIt took about a year between my mother Aida Matalqa and myself with support from Isam Salfiti and David Pritchard going to private investors to form the company, Paper & Pen Film. Being on the inside, it always felt like the movie was about to happen because we were all driving towards the finish line together,â€ Matalqa continued, before adding, â€œI never felt alone in the quest to make this film. We had great people like Nadine Toukan, Fadi Sarraf, and Fawaz Al-Zuâ€™bi carrying a ton of weight on their shoulders to get the movie into and through production. It was a lot of hard work but a really fun journey for what became one big family.â€
So how did the character of Abu Raed come to life? â€œI realized that we had a group of people who were supportive and appreciative of a new wave of Jordanian filmmaking. So when I returned to Los Angeles I was having breakfast with producer David Pritchard and my editor Laith Majali. David suggested writing a Jordanian movie that would appeal to Charlie Chaplin if he had been alive. That night Laith and I started brainstorming and came up with the character of Abu Raed. Now my life is surrounded by aviation. My father is a pilot, my brother is a pilot, and I grew up next to an airport in Ohio,â€ Matalqa answered.
Matalqaâ€™s movie revolves around the struggle of one human being against a cruel world; it is more than the story of an old janitor, who finds pleasure in enticing the imagination of children and motivating them with fact filled stories about his travels and adventures and despite of its somewhat slow pace the progression of its events are quite smooth and natural thanks to a coherent script.
Veteran Jordanian actor Nadeem Sawalhaâ€™s portrayal of Captain Abu Raed is quite enjoyable and his screen presence is in fact comforting.
Abu Raed is a widower, who spends his time between keeping the airport clean and reading books. Upon finding a discarded captainâ€™s hat in the trash bin his life changes from being a person, who is living on the sidelines of life offering assistance to arriving and departing travelers, to a man trying to be more involved in the lives that surround him.
Sawalha has been in dozen international cinematic productions like The Lion and The Wind (1975), Ian Flemingâ€™s The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), The Nativity Story (2006) and Diana: Last Days of a Princess (2007).
Captain Abu Raed is an ode to a dream that comes out as a blend of comedy and drama which eventually shifts towards the latter especially near the end but without disturbing the natural progression of its narrative.
â€œThe movie was either going to be set at a hospital or an airport, and the airport was clearly the more interesting of the two. From there, I spent the next three weeks outlining a story and creating characters, then it took ten days to write the movie…. and a year and a half to rewrite it to where it is today. I researched child abuse with the Jordan River Foundation and realized this is a perfect story about a man who makes a difference in a boyâ€™s life. No politics, no religion,â€ Matalqa said.
In Captain Abu Raed, Matalqa and Reinhart â€œRayteamâ€ Peschke, the cinematographer, manage to accentuate the magic that lies within the realms of our Amman. Abu Raedâ€™s house lies amidst Ammanâ€™s asymmetrical houses that are scattered across two slanting cliffs overlooking a street that starts in Ras el-Ain and reaches the heart of age old al-Balad (downtown Amman).
At one of my favorite moments in the movie, Abu Raed proves to Nour that a person does not have to be a pilot to fly above the clouds. Lying on his back and gazing at the never ending sky, Abu Raed advises Nour, sharing the moment, not to allow society to control her life.
Matalqaâ€™s directorial debut, which was edited by Laith Majali, re-introduces us to Ammanâ€™s breathtaking sceneries. Majaliâ€™s astute edits are what made Captain Abu Raed visual transitions dazzling.
Captain Abu Raed won the Audience Award for the World Cinema for Drama in the recent Sundance Film Festival, which Matalqa believes is a very positive step.
â€œI think weâ€™ve not only placed Jordan on the map of world cinema, but also begun to touch the hearts and minds of foreign audiences in the US and soon in Europe and the rest of the world,â€ Matalqa stated, adding that between Captain Abu Raed and Mahmoud Al-Massadâ€™s documentary Recycle the world is certainly becoming aware of a budding Jordanian film industry.
It takes years for a man to realize that he failed in achieving something but in Matalqaâ€™s movie the painful process comes across as Abu Raed tries to help Tareq (Qadise) go to school by buying the chocolate wafers that Tareq sells , as forced by his father.
Little did Abu Raed know that he simply hastened the bitter and inevitable end of Tareqâ€™s school days! The revelation of this aspect in his life comes out in one of the most touching scenes, among many in Matalqaâ€™s movie.
Little by little Abu Raed becomes aware of his inability to save all the children in Amman. Failing to save Tareq from his destiny Abu Raed decides that he wonâ€™t fail Murad, another boy who is experiencing a miserable existence.
Abu Raed decides to save Murad (Souse), his brother Hilal (Qteishat) and their tormented mother, from an abusive father and husband (Saber).
Saberâ€™s fervent and credible portrayal of the abusive Abu Murad is one of the highlights in Matalqaâ€™s movie. His dazzling performance epitomizes the unbearable rage and sadness an abusive father can instill in his children.
â€œIf you want to make movies, thereâ€™s never been a better time in Jordan. We have the Red Sea Institute for Cinematic Arts opening in Aqaba and then we have all these workshops and emerging talents. I also have something very special cooking for young kids interested in the arts in Jordan. Something that Iâ€™m very excited about, but will not announce just yet,â€ Matalqa, who will be working on an American film and a Jordanian film entitled Once Upon Amman that will reunite cast of Captain Abu Raed, concluded.
Captain Abu Raed flies the Skies of Jordan
By Mike V.Derderian
As 20007 and 2008 movie trailers kept rolling on the vast screen one viewer sat agitated in a seat in raw C16 in Grand Cinema hall number three. I was waiting for the main feature to start but why was I anxious? Well, I was about to watch the first Jordanian feature film in 50 years.
What would you do when faced with the following question “are you an airplane captain?” when you know you are no more than a janitor!
You do as Abu Raed (Nadeem Sawalha) did in Amin Matalaqa’s 2007 movie Captain Abu Raed. He said yes and started telling the children that asked him that question stories about his extensive travels and adventures around the world.
Captain Abu Raed stars Hussein Al-Souse, Udey Al-Qadise, Muhammad Qteishat, Ghandi Saber, Lina Al-Tal, Ali Maher, Nadim Mushahwar and Rana Sultan.
How did Abu Raed the janitor end up as the neighborhood’s storyteller and renowned aerial captain? After coming across a discarded captain’s cap in a trashcan Abu Raed decides to wear it on his way back home. One of the neighborhood children, Tareq (Qadise), spots him coming down from the airport bus and inquires if he is an airplane captain.
The next day, and as he is about to go to work, Abu Raed finds himself surrounded by a group of children hungry for tales of adventure and dreams.
Pursuing one’s dreams is the main premise in Matalqa’s endearing 110-minute movie, which is filled with surreal moments that are a balanced blend of comedy and tragedy. “Good afternoon Um Raed,” Abu Raed addressing a framed photograph of his deceased wife as soon as he gets home.
Surrounded by antiques and shelves burdened with hundreds of books Abu Raed spends most of his time reading at the comfort of his house, which is surrounded by stone facades strewn across Amman’s breathtaking landscapes that overlook its overcrowded streets and marketplaces.
Captain Abu Raed’s scenes were shot in Amman, Salt and of course Queen Alia Airport, where Abu Raed befriends the mild mannered and gentle Nour (Sultan), a female airline captain, whose nagging parents (Maher and Al Tal) are trying to pressure her into a marriage of convenience.
“Shall we go out to the terrace,” Abu Raed holding a tray laden with a teapot and two glasses asks Nour, who smiles at his hilarity.
A few minutes later and from the rooftop of his home Abu Raed proves to Nour that a person does not have to be a commercial airliner to fly above the clouds. Lying on his back and gazing at the never ending heavens Abu Raed also advises Nour, who is now doing the same, not to allow society or her parents to control her life.
Abu Raed also gets involved in the lives of Tareq (Qadise) and Murad (Al Souse), two troubled children from his neighborhood. Tareq’s father is forcing him to skip school and sell chocolate wafers, while, Murad’s father (Saber) is tormenting and abusing his wife, Murad and his brother Hilal (Qteishat).
Ghandi Saberâ€™s portrayal of the abusive Abu Murad is haunting. He is able to capture the menace of a misguided father, who can easily sow rage and sadness in his own children. Saber will most certainly dazzle Jordanian audiences in the years to come, whether he was performing in television, cinema or on stage.
Veteran Jordanian actor Nadeem Sawalha, who I had the pleasure of meeting in 2003 in Amman, when he was performing All I Want is a British Passport!, a one man stage performance inspired by the story of Mohammed Al Fayed, added his own personal warmth to the character of Abu Raed that won him a Best Actor Award at the Dubai International Film Festival.
Sawalha has been in dozen international cinematic productions like The Lion and The Wind (1975), Ian Flemingâ€™s The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), The Nativity Story (2006) and Diana: Last Days of a Princess (2007).
While Amin’s well-rounded script introduces audiences to differnet storylines presented through smooth visual transitions provided by Laith Majali’s edits, Reinhart ‘Rayteam’ Peschke’s cinematography accompanied by Austin Wintory’s subtle original musical score re-openes our eyes to the beauty of Amman’s scenery.
Most if not all Jordanians will be able to recognize the Jordanian characters (dream possessed children, the nagging overprotective parents, the grumpy bus driver, the always complaining taxi driver and the hazy co-worker), Ammanâ€™s cultural and historical motifs (Ammanâ€™s asymmetrical architecture, Saltâ€™s ancient houses, the Citadel and the largest Jordanian Flag in the world) and cinematic references (the Jacque truffaut allusion) that Amin incorporated in his movie that transcends social differences and boundaries.
Captain Abu Raed, which won the Audience Award for the World Cinema for Drama in the recent Sundance Film Festival, is simply Matalqa’s ode to Amman.
It is definitely worth the ticket price and every Jordanian should watch it at the movies for who wants to tell his children and grandchildren after a few years that he watched the first Jordanian feature in 50 years on DVD. Wellâ€¦not this Jordanian!
For more information about the Amin Matalqaâ€™s movie visit http://www.captainaburaed.com
The following interviews were conducted in separate places and timesâ€¦.enjoyâ€¦if they don’t help you understand nothing will…
(Q & A with Amin Matalqa, the writer and director of Captain Abu Raed)
By Mike V.Derderian
1. What was the main inspiration behind writing and directing Captain Abu Raed? When, where and how?
It started in 2005. My grandfather Wahbeh Jabaji had passed away that year. He was a doctor and worked in the old downtown Amman and was loved by everyone in his neighborhood. That same year, I had been accepted into the American Film Institute’s directing MFA program. So I quit my job and decided to spend my summer writing a new feature screenplay before starting school. In May of that year, the Royal Film Commission had screened 12 of my short films and the audience was fantastic.
I realized that we had a group of people who were supportive and appreciative of a new wave of Jordanian filmmaking. So when I returned to Los Angeles I was having breakfast with producer David Pritchard and my editor Laith Majali. David suggested writing a Jordanian movie that would appeal to Charlie Chaplin if he had been alive.
That night Laith and I started brainstorming and came up with the character of Abu Raed.
Now my life is surrounded by aviation. My father is a pilot, my brother is a pilot, and I grew up next to an airport in Ohio.
The movie was either going to be set at a hospital or an airport. The airport was clearly the more interesting of the two. From there, I spent the next three weeks outlining a story and creating characters, then it took ten days to write the movie and a year and a half to rewrite it to where it is today. I researched child abuse with the Jordan River Foundation and realized this is a perfect story about a man who makes a difference in a boy’s life. No politics, no religion.
2. The phrase, “The first Jordanian feature film in 50 years,” is indicative of the huge responsibility that lied on your shoulders the moment the project was announced. How did you feel when you realized that your script was going to materialize on the silver screen?
It wasn’t like suddenly someone at a studio gave us the sudden okay. It took about a year between my mother Aida Matalqa and myself with support from Isam Salfiti and David Pritchard going to private investors to form the company, Paper & Pen Film. Being on the inside, it always felt like the movie was about to happen because we were all driving it towards the finish line together. I never felt alone in the quest to make this film. So the pressure was simply artistic, not so much nationalistic. We had great people like Nadine Toukan, Fadi Sarraf, and Fawaz Al-Zou’bi carrying a ton of weight on their shoulders to get the movie into and through production. It was a lot of hard work but a really fun journey for what became one big family.
3. Was Captain Abu Raed’s role written with Nadeem Sawalha in mind?
From the beginning Laith and I both talked about Nadim, yes. However, at one point I did consider and talk to Omar Sharif. I’m so glad and happy about the way things turned out.
4. Do you believe that winning The Audience Award for the World Cinema for Drama in the recent Sundance Film Festival has placed Jordan on the map of creative filmmaking?
Absolutely. Between Captain Abu Raed and Mahmoud Al-Massad’s documentary Recycle, I think we’ve not only placed Jordan on the map of world cinema, but also begun to touch the hearts and minds of foreign audiences in the US and soon in Europe and the rest of the world.
5. How many months did it take to finish Captain Abu Raed starting from pre-production, production and post-production and what were the elements that you relied on in choosing your locations aesthetically speaking?
I started writing the movie in July 2005. We finished post-production in November 2007. So that’s about two and a half years altogether. The locations came organically into the script as I visited Amman between rewrites.
6. Is it a rule for a filmmaker to shot short films before directing a feature?
In my bookâ€¦absolutely. Short films are the training grounds for making feature films. I made 26 shorts before Captain Abu Raed. Some were elaborate shorts with action, suspense, drama, and comedy like Bullseye and Heavy Weight and some were simple improvisations sketches like Suffi Suffi. You learn so much by shooting on your own, editing on your own, acting… etc. Every short film I made was an exercise that benefited Captain Abu Raed. Most important however, is storytelling and writing.
7. The list of your crew and producers is impressive and displays a multitude of local and foreign talents. What is in your opinion the first step to get a movie project off the ground in Jordanâ€”of course before and after contacting the RFC?
Just write and rewrite your script until it’s polished and you believe it’s ready for filming. Don’t go into a film with a messy script and expect that something magical will happen that will fix everything in editing. The film is made in the script stage. Then get yourself a really good cast. Spend time finding the right actors for your characters. I feel blessed to have found Ghandi and Rana and Hussein and Udey and of course the honor to work with Nadim Sawalha. They were all so amazing.
8. What is your next project as a writer and a director?
Working on an American film and another Jordanian film. The Jordanian one is called Once Upon Amman. It has nothing to do with Captain Abu Raed, but reunites the same cast in completely different roles.
9. Jordan is witnessing a media-cum-internet orientated revolution and websites are being flooded by shorts and as I remember you did a few shorts that you posted on your own website. What would you tell young and aspiring Jordanian filmmakers amidst the progressing film-making industry in Kingdom, which is certainly picking up pace?
If you want to make movies, there’s never been a better time in Jordan. We have the Red Sea Institute for Cinematic Arts (RSICA) opening in Aqaba and then we have all these workshops and emerging talents. I also have something very special cooking for young kids interested in the arts in Jordan. Something that I’m very excited about but will not announce just yet.
(Q & A with Nadine Toukan, one of the producers of Amin Matalaqa’s Captain Abu Raed )
By Mike V.Derderian
1. How do you feel on being part of the Captain Abu Raed filmmaking experience?
Thrilled, with a huge sense of achievement, and energized and inspired to make more. Four years ago during my first chat with Amin, we talked about his first feature and the words used were â€œmy dream is to make my first real film.â€
We had no idea back then what it would be and when. Then one day Amin penned a story and developed a pitch that rallied the participation of some of the most passionate, devoted people around. Getting this first feature to fly in this barren desert is a big feat. Itâ€™s a dream come true, and an experience I will hold dear forever.
2. What was your reaction when you first read Aminâ€™s script?
I read the very first draft; I liked it; I could see it made and immediately started thinking about the how, who and when.
3. Was it hard to get the project off the ground?
It wasnâ€™t hard, but it was hard work. Producing consumes everything, so one better be willing to give all, no matter what, and then go the many extra miles.
4. Having worked with The Royal Film Commission (RFC) where do you see our country in regards to the filmmaking industry in a few years time?
The next twenty years are already off to being interesting, exciting, viable and transformational for Jordan in the creative industries. As one of these industries, filmmaking has the potential for serious economic impact through its main resourceâ€”human capitalâ€”usâ€”meaning our specialized skills and that which we create.
Making films is about sharing what’s important to us, and about artistic and cultural expression, and about sustainable job creationâ€”all vital for the renaissance we speak of. Where will the investment come from? Money is easy when youâ€™re doing the right thing.
5. Whatâ€™s your advice for aspiring Jordanian filmmakers?
Believe in the possibility and collaborate with committed people. Take risks, work hard and remember there is no rule book. Right now, multimedia storytellers here are blazing a trail, so thereâ€™s really nothing to bog us down. If you have a story to tell, whether it was fact, fiction, short or long, don’t hold back from telling it, your way. Today in Jordan, there are some very serious people and organizations dedicated to developing this industry.
6. Why are some people (in Jordan) missing the point with Captain Abu Raed?
Amidst wonderful feedback and recognition from local and international audiences, and like any film, some audiences are engaged and drawn to Captain Abu Raed, some arenâ€™t. A fiction film is a creation that aims to whisk you away to another worldâ€”some people find themselves on this ride, some donâ€™t.
I donâ€™t think itâ€™s fair to some people to say they are missing the point. Simply put, the film did not resonate with some, I apologize for that. I also apologize for the fact that there isnâ€™t another Jordanian film to go and watch in local cinemas and compare with and to be drawn to. I also apologize for the scarcity of cinemas.
Weâ€™ve got to remember that thereâ€™s nothing out there as indie fiction, just Aminâ€™s Captain Abu Raed, flying solo.
Some in Jordan are going to watch it hoping and assuming it will satisfy every void. They want it to close the gap of generations of no cinema production. People have the right to have these expectations when their local audiovisual media failed them so miserably for decades. And although this is now behind us, the reality remains that one little film cannot fix it all. But it is a beginning, and we must make the next, and the one after, and keep creating until everyone finds a Jordanian film they love.
On the immediate front, I look forward to Mahmoud Al Massad’s documentary Recycle, screening here.
(Q & A with Ghandi Saber, who played the role of Abu Murad in Captain Abu Raed)
By Mike V.Derderian
1. What can you tell us about yourself?
My story dates back to a long time. I’ve acting for over 13 years. For the past ten years I’ve been working at the Performing Art Center (PAC). Working there provided me with different acting opportunities in Jordan. I performed in stage productions part of different activities like the Arab Children Convention and got involved in productions like Abu Hassan’s Opera.
I traveled to Britain to work in a stage production. I was the only Jordanian. We had over 30 performances and this was my biggest break.
I believe that there is always a period of my life that will contain an important event. But it depends on how hard you are working on yourself and your self-esteem and belief in what you are doing.
2. How did you get involved with Captain Abu Raed?
It was through Laith Majali. I think he had me in mind ever since the time we performed an interactive play about family abuse at his school five years ago. It was a play that revolved around violence and I was an abusive husband and father. It was entitled The Memories of a Woman.
He then saw me in another play entitled A Snake Under a Haystack that we also performed at his school. It consisted of a number of sketches. I had a master scene that was about the cycle of life and survival of the fittest.
An on stage struggle with another actor ensues and I end up the last survivor. I metaphorically rip his heart out and eat it. It was quite a graphic scene and I believe my posture and stage experience helped me in performing it.
After a while Laith contacted me and told me that Amin had my picture. He told me about a film project that he and Amin were working on. I am not the type of actor who would brush aside other people’s interest and projects as trivial as I give everything my utmost interest.
A few months later he calls me up and tells me that Amin is in Town and that he wants me to come and meet him. I met him and he asked me to help him find young actors, which I did, however, after a number of auditions he wasn’t able to choose anyone.
After the auditions Amin asks me to improvise a scene with Laith. I started to sense Amin’s reactions and voice change. You should have seen Amin while we were doing the scene. He was acting like a zealous director, saying, “Ghandiâ€¦.could you tweak it up a littleâ€¦.yesâ€¦.great that how I want it.”
He probably found the character that he wanted. He was focusing on my facial expressions. It took us about half an hour and from that moment on I started to sense something.
Amin then took a few photographs of me. I sensed that he found me suitable for a character he had in mind but I didn’t know who. I then discovered that I was the first and only actor to audition for Abu Murad.
I was sort of involved with Captain Abu Raed a year and half before production started. I felt I was part of the production process more than just an actor cast in a role. I lived the role, talked about it and discussed its dimensions. People and friends thought I was exaggerating and that I am talking absurdities.
Days passed and Amin sent me photos of children that he discovered after conducting a number of auditions in different places in Jordan. He asked me to supervise Hussein Al-Souse, my on-screen son Murad, and to help him stay in character. I believe Amin saw something special in Hussein.
3. Your scenes were mainly with your on-screen wife (Deena Raed) and two children (Hussein Al-Souse and Muhammad Qteishat) in addition to Captain Abu Raed (Nadeem Sawalha). How
After filming a violent scene with the actors with me I used to hag them and apologize to them.
The crew used to tell me that I shouldn’t and stay in character. Well, I am not a “method” actor, who eats, sleeps and drinks with the character long after a scene is shot. I believe that an actor needs to disengage from his character and that’s how I work.
The scenes with my on-screen children were difficult but what helped was the way I interacted with the children because they were first time actors and what was happening in front of the camera was so real.
I was going to be violent with them. Shake them, beat them up and burn their hands. Nadeem was like a moving school. I used to take into consideration a lot of his notes in between scenes.
The scene in which I beat up my wife and pour the tomato casserole that she just cooked were intimidating and if Amin decided not to show them as planned I don’t know what would have happened.
The scene with Nadeem was quite graphic and I’ve noticed that it exhausted him even though he didn’t say anything about it. I was there yelling shouting at him, kicking him and punching him. It wasn’t a scene to be shown in the film. They’ve just recorded the sounds to use it for an off-screen scene. He was just there receiving it all and the next time we shot it we did it without Nadeem.
4. Captain Abu Raed won the World Cinema for Drama in the recent Sundance Film Festival. What was your reaction when you realized that you won a Sundance Award?
It was one of the greatest moments in my life. When Captain Abu Raed was announced the winner and Amin asked us to come on stage the attendants realized that the actors, who they just saw on screen were sitting in their midst. They were quite surprised and they all applauded our movie and us. There we were on stage facing a standing ovation that lasted a few minutes.
We were all proud because we were able to place Jordan on the cinematic map. A film from Jordan was screened at the Sundance Film Festival. It is quite an achievement.
I remember that I wanted to save the moment so while I went up to the podium, where Amin, Nadeem and Rana stood, I grabbed my mini-camera and started filming. If you look at the footage you will see people’s sides and feet. I simply wanted to document everything that I will always remember as being part of my greatest moments in my life as an actor.
The funny part was when I came back to Jordan some of my colleague and friends were frustrated that I wasn’t able to take photographs of celebrities. Mathew Perry from Friends was there and when he was entering photographers were taking his picture. When the cast of Captain Abu Raed arrived to the scene photographers started taking pictures of us. We were equals and actors from different parts of the world but we were all being treated equally.
Above all the screening that was attended by Her Majesty Queen Rania, who lauded Captain Abu Raed and its cast of actors, was an honor above us all. Her Majesty was talking to Amin and with us and this made all proud Jordanians.
As my wife and I were leaving we met with His Excellency Prince Ali, who jokingly told me that “I scared him with my performance.” Prince Ali also joked with my wife and asked her if I was like that in real life so that he can teach me a lesson.
(Q & A with Fawaz Zoubi, the location manager of Captain Abu Raed)
By Mike V.Derderian
1. How do you define your job as a location manager on Captain Abu Raedâ€™s set?
The location manager is the non-artistic part of on a movie. He will arrange seating arrangements for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He is responsible of arranging the set and guiding the cast and technicians around it.
We are the ones who go in and make agreements with a neighborhood people; we tell them that we are filming. Basically what happens is the minute and the director know where it is they are going to shoot they get a hold of their location team, which in turn goes out and contacts the people and the shop owners. We agree with them on the basis of using their area for filming.
Captain Abu Raed, which was a local venture, was easy to manage. The only place we had to have extra permission and extra legwork was in Al Salt because we were blocking off streets and literally living in peopleâ€™s living rooms.
The airport was simple and the security issues were totally taken care off. We based ourselves outside the airport’s parking lot. So whenever we had to move into the airport we contacted security people and arranged everything.
Because it was a Jordanian movie things were much easier for us. I mean Iâ€™ve worked on American movies and it never was easy.
2. Did you face any difficulties during shooting?
If you know what job you are taking on, and what you are willing to take on in that job, then you cannot really complain because every job has its set of problems that come with it. We had long days and long nights. The location peopleâ€™s job is to keep people happy. You have the sound department, the camera department, the art department and the construction department. People will step on each otherâ€™s toes because they all focus on what they are supposed to do.
As location people we have to go down and make everyone work with each other. Sometimes we have to act as peacemakers and diplomats and sometimes we end up undiplomatic and forced to use a big stick. You know what they say, â€œDifferent strokes for different folks.â€
3. How did you get attached to Captain Abu Raed?
Amin approached me a year before we started filming. He and the director of photography came to visit me in Jerash, where we hold the Roman Race show. He started telling me about this movie project that he was working on.
The only thing that I said to Amin at the time was that, â€œI need to read the script.â€ Before I work on any movie I like to read the script just to know where it is. If a movie script is against my principals and my beliefs I am not going to do it.
So he sent me the script and I loved it. I thought it was a brilliant script with a brilliant idea. I could see it happening and the more we worked on it the more engrossed we got in it. It was like working part of one big family.
Amin is telling us that heâ€™d love to do another movie and we all are saying, â€œOh, yes weâ€™d love to do another one.â€ It is not going to be the same atmosphere but it will definitely be fun to do because while we were doing Captain Abu Raed we had no time to enjoy anything.
We were pushing very hard and what was supposed to be a five-week filming took about four weeks. There were deadlines on both ends and people had other commitments as other movie projects and crews were filming in town. We had to wait until Brian De Palmaâ€™s Reducted would finish so we can get started. Then there was Kathryn Bigelowâ€™s The Hurt Locker. So we were facing a lot of timing issues.
Because Captain Abu Raed was a Jordanian movie people had nothing against doing overtime and give it a 120 percent of their effort. It is after all the first Jordanian feature in 50 years.
Amin and the cinematography crew did a great job and what I most enjoyed about it is the aerial scenes, which took us one afternoon of filmingâ€”about an hour. For me it was the most enjoyable to see on the screen; seeing the Citadel and the flag from the sky you know.
4. Tell us more about your background with movie productions?
Let me give you a brief rundown of my career as a location manager. In 2000, I worked in Red Plant, starring Val Kilmer and Tom Sizmore. It was filmed in Wadi Rum and I’ve spent the first ten days with them part of my work with the 1st unit of the film production crew. It is called 1st unit because you get to work with the main actors.
My job was to make sure that any vehicle got stuck in the desert wouldn’t stay stuck. The next project I worked on was The Mummy Returns. I was the local art director and I worked on the train and the train station. I’ve spent three weeks doing that.
But after September 11th movie making in Jordan goes dead. We got nothing and things were completely dead. I did something called Gunner Palace, which is a semi-documentary about soldiers in Iraq. What I did was transport the gentleman, who was doing the movie, from Amman to Iraq and back again.
Then along came Captain Abu Raed, which was the first time that I worked as a location manager on a movie production but because of my previous experience I knew what it was. Being Jordanian I found it easy to go down the street and talk to people and tell them that we are filming a movie. I appealed to people’s nationality and patriotism and that’s what really works.
When you have a director called De Palma of Biglew people wouldn’t care but when you have a director with Matalqa as a last name it is different.
5. Do believe that Captain Abu Raed fulfilled the expectations of Jordanians and what was the main reason that attracted you to Amin’s script?
By nature I am not an artistic person. Having read the script I used to take a few minutes to sit close to Amin and see what he was doing. I used to watch everything on the monitor. Amin and the crew did a great job. They achieved exactly what Amin wanted and saw in his mind when he wrote the script. Everything is right there on the screen and I think they did a fantastic job.
Amin did the right thing by brining experts. He got the people who knew how to make things happen and at the same time got people who believed in the script. Amin’s enthusiasm was contagious, whether in the way he talked about the movie, imagined it or tried to set it up. “What we lack in experience we make for with enthusiasm,” is what I usually tell foreign film crews.
A lot of people spent a great deal of time and effort to make this film work.
One was Amin’s enthusiasm and two was that I didn’t want to miss on the opportunity. They were doing the Jordanian feature film not the American feature film. I also didn’t want to miss out on working with Laith, Nadine, Amin and the whole gang.
6. How do you describe the attitude of the actors in Captain Abu Raed?
Everyone was excited and everybody was giving it a 120 percent. Rana Sultan and the kids were all first time actors but that didn’t prevent them from giving us their best. Being Jordanian and Captain Abu Raed being his first feature film Nadeem Sawalha gave it all he had.
There were no divas on the set and no body was throwing fits or teddy bears in the corner. They were all part of one big family. If the kids were straying away from the set somebody would round them up and make sure they were safe. If Nadeem had to go up the set and couldn’t get there somebody would help him up or down.
I remember telling Ghandi Saber that people in Jordan will hate him because of his performance. “Ghandi you will be the most hated man in Jordan,” is what I jokingly exactly told him.
The kids I believe were the most excited on the set. On the first days of filming they would rehearse their line with Amin and they would all have heartily laughs and giggles but once the camera rolled everything changed and everybody goes tense.
Once they saw that the camera was rolling and boom mics were above them the kids sensed how serious the situation was and they got into it. It was very good.
6. What should a young filmmaker do in order to make a film in Jordan?
The most important thing is that we now have the Royal Film Commission (RFC), which is why we can now do films in Jordan. The RFC people are young and their goal is defined. They know what they want to help with. They are very objective and are willing to help anyone, whether they were going to make a million dollar movie or a 200, 000 dollar movie, equally and with the same amount of time and effort. The RFC also gives filmmakers permits in order to be able to work.
Location management is an important aspect in the filmmaking process as it never helps when one approached people from above. It is their neighborhood and they have every right to give you a hard time. You cannot stop a lady from throwing a frying pan on the floor. If people don’t want you there they don’t want you there.
I stumbled upon this scintillating conversation last night as I was looking for a review for Recycle. Zahi I salute you and the others who realise the discrepancies in our social and official systems in Jordan. For the rest of you, especially the esteemed Mister Matalqa, you made filmmaker PR mistake number 1: never shoot yourself in the foot by answering back directly to your detractors. You pulled a Michael Richards there my friend, albeit on a lesser level of intensity, but big enough to show how easily an ego can be inflated.
So I wasn’t the only one who noticed the whole discrepancy with the 50 years 30 years business on CAR huh? I’m glad to see someone else is keeping their eyes and ears open.
Let’s consider the facts about Amin Matalqa’s work on CAR:
1) Filming at QAIA at full support of Royal Jordanian: Amin’s father is a senior pilot with RJ and can even be seen walking across the screen at one point in time during the film. Here’s one, maybe two, official entities already in his pockets.
2) Nadim Sawalha was introduced to Amin by his father, who is either a friend of Nadim’s or just happened to be on an RJ flight Matalqa Sr. was piloting. I don’t remember which, either way, there’s another massive asset in his pocket considering Nadim Sawalha is (and how convenient is this!) the only internationally recognised Jordanian actor who still acknowledges his background on any degree. I have a feeling the RFC and the powers-that-be have something to do with this in terms of getting some media and PR attention. You have to wonder to yourself if you’re in their shoes: if I’m promoting something that’s meant to be big, we need to catch international attention somehow. Matalqa’s still too fresh a name. How about Sawalha? Yes that’ll do nicely. They already know him out there.
3) David Pritchard is one of the main producers of CAR. A veteran of The Simpsons, Family Guy, and several other film and television productions according to both imdb.com and the CAR website. David Pritchard was previously also an executive at Johnson & Johnson and Chase Manhattan Bank so…
3b) When taking into consideration that producer Isam Salfiti “is the Chairman and General Manager of the Union Bank for Savings & Investment, one of the largest banking institutions in Jordan.” (again, the CAR website)…you can see that there was a prior connection somehow between the two upper filmmaking entities. Seriously now, not everyone who moves to Los Angeles or even goes to the AFI comes out with these kinds of contacts straight away. Hardly anyone that goes to Los Angeles these days comes out with contacts at all!
4) Let’s not forget that Amin’s own mother is one of the producers, and that she helped form the team of investors for the film. Father’s in the pocket already with his set of contacts, here comes the mother’s set as well. And when you are a potential film maker whose best friend and long time collaborator is a Majali…come on, do I really need to spell it out?
Taking into consideration all the talk of croneyism, wasta, and silver spoon theories is important when considering CAR both as a film and an investment opportunity for Jordan. I saw CAR and Recycle a few weeks apart from each other, I happened to like both films. However when one considers a portrayal of life in Jordan and wishes to defy stereotypes in the eyes of the west, I can see why the RFC would support and aide in CAR’s marketing and promotion more than it would Recycle.
a) It connects with a social issue that is applicable in any country, and thus capable of better communication with an international audience.
b) It allows for a demonstration of a thespian talent among the cast of the film, demonstrating that there is untapped talent in Jordan, as well as the humanitarian edge of bringing in children from refugee camps to demonstrate that there is no elitism involved in the casting process (though if some of the other users’ claims that part of the cast were already established employees of the RFC are true, then it only adds further to the shenanigans)
c) Bigger budget = better crew = better equipment = more bang for the buck. This is opposed to the very minimal set-up of Recycle.
d) Giving the story an angle that has to do with different facets of life in Amman, but also ostensibly making it a story of both dreams and flight, gives better marketing for Royal Jordanian.
I have to say, and I add this in so as not to lose my train of thought, that all these are factors that seem to contribute to CAR’s success as both a film and a marketing tool. Noone denies that the film is beautifully written and directed, but speaking as a film maker myself, the film’s tendency to portray itself as a European art film in the vein of Cinema Paradiso was its only failing. There is a real Jordan out there, a Recycle Jordan, a Jordan of Abu Mahjoob realities and harshly humoros and inconvenient truths.
Now if other Jordanian film makers on this board are protesting and claiming that there are other Jordanian film makers out there who are much better and more accomplished in artistic style than Matalqa, then this comes as a shock to me. I have no idea if it is just me or if the RFC ignores every one’s phonecalls and e-mails concerning potential projects in Jordan (yes, I live abroad), but it seems to me that putting all above factors into consideration, there was some major under-the-table marketing bonanza going on between Matalqa and the powers-that-be.
Call me cynical if you may, call me a conspiracy theorist even. Someone on this thread asked to back up their argument with evidence, and most of the parts that make up the whole in the argument of “hard work vs. wasta” are already embedded in the film’s PR work.
Yes, it is very very hard work to make a film and even the tiniest of projects can and will be rife with issues and problems of varying types and degrees of complexity. Any film maker will tell you that this is the first thing you learn in the process. There are no quick getaways, there are no easy solutions. Making 26 short films before entering the AFI’s Masters program does not make one a more accomplished storyteller, it just means they have a portfolio. There’s no question about that, Mister Matalqa, no matter how truthfully the credo of “You’re only as good as your last film” applies to Hollywood or any film industry.
That will not stop me from saluting you as the new idol of Jordanian Cinema and for making a film like CAR to raise awareness of the existance of a fledgling Jordanian film industry. They are both beautiful things if applied in the right method: as stepping stones for other Jordanians out there who do not believe in idolatry to make their way up the ladder to success equal to or beyond your own, no matter how you managed to attain it.
However sir, to quote Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men, “You should admit your situation. There would be more dignity in it.”
I bid you farewell.
wow…the conspiracy was vast
I detect a hint of sarcasm there, Nas.
Recycle playing now at Munich, San Fransisco, Madrid, Toronto
Look honestly, as far as most Jordanians or people around the world are concerned, CAR was Jordan’s first feature film, and I think there is a difference between saying it was Jordan’s first film, and saying it was the first “feature film,” coz to me a feature film is a major production that is distributed through movie theaters and on DVD, etc. I’ve never watched a Jordanian film period, let alone one in a movie theater or on a DVD.
I also think people should be allowed to use their personal connections to contribute to the success of their own projects. If there is one thing this has shown, it is that the people that Amin Matalqa went to for support are indeed able to support others. So if other filmmakers believe that they are not getting the support they deserve from “the powers that be”, then they should blame those powers, not someone like Amin who was simply able to get what all filmmakers want, but some can’t get.
Just because you might have an obstacle in your way, doesn’t mean others who don’t have it cannot move forward. The problem is not them, the problem is the obstacle.