Captain Abu Raed Amin Matalqa

Captain Abu Raed Amin Matalqa
Abu Raed (Nadim Sawalha), an elderly widower working as a janitor at the Amman Queen Alia International Airport, discovers a discarded pilot's cap and wears it home. Well read and prone to escapist whimsies, Raed indulges the fantasies of the local children that mistake him as a captain, telling them stories of far off places and a world of opportunity. He is a wise and world-worn old man that cares for his listeners, engaging in their daily struggles of child labour and domestic abuse, even at the risk of his safety.

This romanticized depiction of the elderly and an overly contrived message of freeing oneself from patriarchal constraints are somewhat of a staple of indie global art-house cinema. If challenged to make a film festival movie to tug at the heartstrings with a pat, politically correct facade, it would probably look and feel a lot like Captain Abu Raed, an occasionally pretty, but mostly insincere yarn about sacrifice and wisdom.

Because the titular Raed is merely an affable shell ― a cipher for feel good Western Christian values ― the morality and ire come from the three stories of male oppression surrounding him. His bond with a female pilot named Nour (Rana Sultan) entertains the missed opportunities in his life while delving into the social expectation for a woman of 30 to be married with children. And his connection with Tareq (Udey Al-Qiddissi), a child forced to skip school to sell wafers in the street, preaches the values of education, while the tale of Murad (Hussein Al-Sous) dips into cyclic patterns of abuse.

Certainly harmless and engaging enough for its duration, this predictable and forgettable Hallmark tale of marching to the beat of your own drum is nothing if not competent. It's also incredibly moralistic and lumbering, with a fade-out television aesthetic and a blaring, manipulative score that makes it impossible to take seriously. (Kinosmith)