Sunday, February 14, 2010

My blog has moved

I've started a new blog, so please visit at Wordpress. Here's the LINK.

I'll be posting more regularly about things other than Captain Abu Raed.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Doha Tribeca Blog #3

Well, I have to say, Doha Tribeca has been one incredibly impressive and inspiring film festival. The soul is focused on nurturing local filmmakers from Doha, but the context is within a global stage. Between Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Mira Nair, Ben Kingsley and Adel Imam, there were new surprises everyday. For me, there were two really special discoveries. One is Elia Suleiman's powerful Palestinian film The Time That Remains which is just a beautiful and powerful comedy about Elia and his father in Palestine, and the second is Amir Ghonem, a young talented Egyptian actor and up and coming filmmaker who played a hilarious Haggler in one of the shorts introducing the films at each screening. This guy is a new talent who will shine, and one day I'll come back and ask him to be in one of my films. He's brilliant.

DTFF surpassed my expectations. The spirit of Doha is beautiful. The culture and the people, lovely. I so look forward to coming back again in the future. One of my favorite festivals I've ever been to.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Doha Tribeca Blog #2: Arab Cinema

There's something very exciting happening in the Arab world right now. A powerful force of artistic voices is coming to life like the sound of an orchestra tuning up, getting ready to explode into a grand overture. Quality Arabic films are starting to emerge on the world stage. Local voices are coming together. A sense of artistic film community is growing and spreading. Film schools and film festivals are bridging cultures between continents. We have Arabs telling Arab stories and preserving portraits of time through cinema that will stay around for future generations to discover.

This is all beautiful and exciting, but now let's see how we can really take this movement and turn it into a self-sustaining industry. How can we create an Arab film culture that speaks to mass audiences so we can keep people coming to Arabic films in Arabic cinemas like they flock to see the latest Jason Statham Transporter action film at the multiplex? Well, the answer is starting to come to me. And I think it's simpler than you would think. We just need to make fun movies. We need to make genre movies: comedies, horror, suspense, thrillers...etc. We need to start thinking about the potential of fun cinema in order to shape a theater-going industry.

People go to the movies to escape everyday life. We go to movies to be entertained. Who would want to go to the movies and watch a drama about a depressing subject when all they look at all day is depressing news about the suffering in the world? People go to the movies to laugh, to be excited, and be inspired, to be scared or fall in love. They go to forget their everyday troubles. So now I think there's a very special opportunity for Arab filmmakers to focus their talents on making entertainment. My first film was a drama that dealt with some dark subjects, but it had comedy and lightness throughout. My next film is a comedy. There's great power in comedy. It's not easy to pull off, but it's something that needs to be nurtured and cultivated.

Something to think about. I went to see the new phenomenon of a film in the US. There's a big hit film called Paranormal Activity that's sweeping the box office charts. It's generated more than $60million in revenues in a few weeks and that's just the beginning. The film will surpass $100million quickly. It's a very intelligently made horror film about a haunted house. I should let you know that the film cost $15,000 to make. There are four characters in the entire film. It's all set in one house. Shot with a little video camera. It was superbly executed with very little resources. The digital age has now allowed us to do anything. The sky is the limit. The rest is up to your imagination.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Doha Tribeca Film Festival Blog #1

In the lead up to the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, I've been asked to write a blog focusing on the position of my film in this new rise of cinema in the Arab world.

Well, it's been some time now that Captain Abu Raed has been circulating from festivals to cinemas, and now DVD and television. Looking back, as the film has played in over 70 countries, here are some things that I can share (I'm going to jump all over the place, but there's so much to touch on and discuss)...

There have been various differing claims: "the first Jordanian film, the first film out of Jordan in 50 years, the first film ever exported from Jordan to the world's cinemas..." etc. There are a million ways to interpret it, but what honestly matters most to me is that I made a film that I loved and nurtured and felt the rewards of sharing with audiences across cultures. That was my biggest goal. The rest is just hype and marketing. I think that any filmmaker who gets distracted with the idea of writing history, and takes their eyes off the ball of actually making a good film that is honest to its own self-contained heart, will be in trouble. What was most important to me while prepping, filming, and editing was that I make a film that affected me personally, for as the director, I am the ambassador for the audience.

In our business plan from the beginning, as we approached investors, the strategy was very simple. There are elements that are within your control, and elements outside of your control when trying to make a film and send it out into the world. Half the battle is actually making the film. The other half is the seemingly impossible struggle to get it distributed out to the world. Something like 80 to 90% of independent films never get picked up for distribution. So our only hope was to simply make the best film we can make, minimize the risk variables, and hope for the best. I don't think a bank would trust such a simple strategy with a loan. Thank God for our amazing Jordanian investors who believed in this film. It all goes back to one simple concept: heart.

Is your heart in your film? Are you doing it for love or for glory? I can't imagine anyone making a good or great film if they're doing it for the glory. You make a film because you care about the characters. You care about their trials and tribulations. Their struggle for survival. Their comedic behavior. The way they deal with their challenges. In the world of independent film, especially in the Arab world, we're far behind on CGI technology. Special effects are expensive, and big set pieces are a long ways away down the road. What we do have, that no special effects can ever replace, is the gift of storytelling. Storytelling is in our blood and culture. That is the special effect that we have the power to cultivate. Nurture good stories with strong characters. That's the foundation for this art. The rest is a combination of art and craft that gets improved with training and collaborating. We'll talk more about that in a separate blog about building a film.

Next blog I think I'll write about the new rise of Arabic cinema.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Up In the Air and Captain

Check out the parallel between this poster from the new George Clooney Film, Up In the Air, with Mr. Clooney looking out the winodow of a US Airport, and the image of Abu Raed looking out the window in Jordan's airport.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Captain Abu Raed Soundtrack Album Now Available on CD

Listed as the #1 Top Score of 2008 by Film Music Magazine, Austin Wintory's complete beautiful orchestral score for Captain is now available on CD from Buy Soundtracks Records in a Limited Edition with beautiful packaging. The first 100 copies shipped will be signed by out brilliant composer, who I will bet my house that he will be the next John Williams in just a few years.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Captain lands in New York

This Friday. Opening in New York. I'll be there for Q&A.