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Director Amin Matalqa crafts debut

Jordanian helmer takes inspiration from Chaplin

Jordanian helmer Amin Matalqa has flown around the world nonstop this year promoting his debut feature “Captain Abu Raed.”

Earlier this year, the 32-year-old won the Sundance fest’s World Cinema Audience Award for the pic. Since then, Matalqa has continued to nab fest prizes in all corners of the world.

What is missing, however, is a U.S. distribution deal, despite strong European sales from agent Fortissimo Films, but a number of specialty distribs have been kicking the tires.

The pic was shot entirely on location in Jordan and financed with local Jordanian coin thanks to the efforts of his mother Aida.

“My obsession is Charlie Chaplin,” says Matalqa. “My producer, David Pritchard, told me to write a story that Chaplin would want to be in. I ended up writing most of the screenplay in the Starbucks opposite Chaplin’s old studio on La Brea in Los Angeles.”

Born and raised in Jordan, he moved to the U.S. when he was 13. Since then, he has journeyed back and forth between his birthplace and adopted hometown of Los Angeles.

“Captain Abu Raed” has been selected as Jordan’s entry for the foreign-language Oscar.

The helmer has already written three more screenplays in English. He attributes his nomadic lifestyle with influencing his style of filmmaking. “Because I was living outside Amman, every time I came back I used to have this romantic view of it,” says Matalqa. “Even though the streets were pretty gritty in real life and sometimes dirty, I used to find them so beautiful.”