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Jordan to ‘Captain’ its first feature film

Desert kingdom embraces moviemaking revival

BAGHDAD — Step aside “Redacted”, here comes “Captain Abu Raed” — Jordan’s first real attempt at its own full-length feature in decades.

Thanks to Hollywood’s Brian de Palma, who won the best director award at the Venice International Film Festival for “Redacted” which was filmed entirely in Jordan, the small desert kingdom has been placed squarely on the international movie-making map once again.

The kingdom’s stunning natural beauty had already served as a backdrop for several Hollywood pics, among them David Lean’s epic “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1962 and Steven Spielberg’s 1984 “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

But “Redacted,” as well as Katheryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” and Nick Broomfield’s “Battle For Haditha,” has heralded what the Royal Film Commission believes will be the start of a new chapter in movie making in Jordan.

“In addition to ascertaining the position of Jordan as an attractive place for international filmmaking, ‘Redacted’ employed some 250 people locally and two million dollars were spent in the country,” the commission said.    The commission, chaired by King Abdullah II’s half-brother Prince Ali, helped scout for locations, cast and crew for “Redacted.”

Now it is backing “Captain Abu Raed” hoping “to expose Jordan and its culture,” according to George David, production services manager at the commission.

“This film and others that will be produced within the next year or two will be key in determining the path of Jordan’s film industry,” David told reporters.

The movie is about an airport janitor who befriends Palestinian refugee children in his poverty-hit neighborhood, spinning them a yarn that he is a pilot.

The children ask him to tell them of his travels, forcing him to invent increasingly colorful adventures.    Abu Raed is played by Jordanian-born British actor Nadim Sawalha, who was Hamad al-Subaai in the George Clooney 2005 thriller “Syriana.”

The 90-minute movie was helmed by Amin Matalqa and was shot on location in Amman and at Salt northwest of the capital, a former Ottoman center of government.

Sawalha considers the movie as “the first serious attempt at making a Jordanian feature film, employing Jordanian and international technical expertise.

“If it succeeds globally, and I am sure it will, it will attract a lot of attention to Jordan both as a good place to make films and also to visit. Both are important aspects for the economy,” Sawalha said.

Matalqa and producer Nadine Toukan used the real article for the movie, scouring Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan for children to act and giving the production a welcome authenticity.

The movie will be premiered in Jordan in December and has been submitted to the Sundance Film Festival for consideration.