Friday, 22 October 2010

Captain Abu Raed


It's been a long time, but I finally watched something that inspired me to write. Captain Abu Raed is one I was watching out for for a long time, and it did not disappoint. The movie centers on an airport janitor who is mistaken for a pilot by some neighbourhood children. At first resisting, he then realises that it's an opportunity to enter the lives of some kids who need a lift. The plot was more original than I'd expected, but that's not what makes this a very good movie. It's the central character. Abu Raed is played perfectly by Nadim Sawalha, and his character is much deeper than one would guess. However, if you're going to find this movie and watch it - which you should - you might want to stop reading here. The next paragraphs will have mild spoilers, but if you're unconvinced, read on.

The problem is that I want to write about what I love about this character, and it's better to be taken by slow surprise. First, the movie resists the temptation of making his character curmudgeonly at the outset. He's a bit private but not rude to the children - so it's not a matter of melting the crusty old man first. Rather his change of heart is quite naturally believable.

Perhaps my favourite scene, though, is when the children "catch" him on his knees scrubbing the floor at the airport. There is no sense at all of shame on his face. In fact, rarely have you seen such a simple, humble character with so much quiet dignity. When faced with confrontive questions, his answers are almost always sideways - a quiet reminder of Jesus' indirect way of responding, especially to loaded questions. Abu Raed refuses to be caught because he is not afraid of the truth - there is no shame in his playing the role of a pilot to inspire the children.

His living space matches his character perfectly. His apartment is simple but aesthetically more attractive than the palatial home of the real airline pilot who later becomes his friend. His rooftop terrace, likewise, gives him a serene and beautiful oversight of Amman, Jordan - clearly a metaphor for the perspective he has gained during his years of peaceful reading and solitude.

We watch as he gets more and more engaged in the life and difficulties of the children, feeling deeply his powerlessness to do more which builds to the movie's climax.

Though there are a few weak spots (perhaps the very last scene is not entirely necessary) - it's a beautiful, rich film - worth a full ****

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