Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Abu Raed in Seattle and Maui

Captain Abu Raed is playing on June 1 and June 4 at the Seattle International Film Festival.
CLICK HERE to buy tickets

Also new is that it will be playing at the Maui Film Festival on June 13
CLICK HERE for tickets

Other upcoming festivals in June:

New York: June 7 and 8. CLICK HERE for tickets

Edinburgh International Film Festival: June 22 & 27
CLICK HERE for tickets

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Captain Abu Raed sells to Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg

Very exciting news today!

Coming out of the Cannes market, Captain Abu Raed has just sold for distribution in Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

In addition, check this out in the WALL STREET JOURNAL
It's very exciting to see the picture of Abu Raed and the kids in the Wall street Journal. It is in reference to our upcoming screenings in New York.

It's getting harder to keep up with where the film is traveling now as it spreads its wings with Fortissimo Films. Come July, the film will be in festivals in Ireland, South Africa, and Japan. We have a slate of more announcements coming up for distribution in other territories.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Captain Abu Raed in The Washington Times

CLICK HERE for the actual article

The make-believe 'Captain'
By Kelly Jane Torrance
May 23, 2008

Amin Matalqa hasn't just made his first feature film. He has made, producers say, the first independent film to come out of Jordan in five decades. Moreover, he accomplished this feat while still a student — he's the first at the American Film Institute Conservatory to have finished a feature film before he graduated.

Even better, "Captain Abu Raed" is no mere curiosity. It's an accomplished, moving film that is racking up awards as it makes its way through the festival circuit. It won the Dramatic World Cinema Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival and took top actor and top actress honors at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Jordan's ambassador, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, presented a special screening of the film Tuesday night in the District. (Producers haven't yet sold distribution rights in the U.S., though the film already has started playing around the world. The Jordanian premiere in February was attended by Queen Rania.)

The film stars Nadim Sawalha ("Syriana" and dozens of other films) as the title character, a janitor in Amman's airport who, on walking home in a pilot's cap he found in a trash can, is mistaken for a pilot by the children in his poor neighborhood. At first, the old man tries to tell the youngsters the truth. However, when he sees how starved they are for dreams, he turns himself into Captain Abu Raed, spinning tales of his adventures around the world.

That hat might have belonged to Nour (Jordan television presenter Rana Sultan), a pilot who ends up befriending Abu Raed. She's a beautiful, independent, modern woman whose father won't stop setting her up with eligible bachelors in the hope she'll get married and give him grandchildren.

What starts out as a charming fable turns serious when the wise Abu Raed tries to help not just Nour, but the local children. There's Tareq, whose father won't let him go to school until he has made the family some money each day, and Murad, a cynic. ("People like us don't become pilots," Murad says when trying to convince the others that the old man is a janitor.)

The film is a deft look at contemporary Jordan that handles weighty issues with grace and manages to leaven the seriousness with humor. (Some of it must be lost in translation, however — the many Arab speakers in the audience were laughing at things that didn't seem quite so funny in the English subtitles.)

In a question-and-answer session after the film, Mr. Matalqa and executive producer David Pritchard spoke about bringing "Captain Abu Raed" to life. The writer-director grew up in Jordan, coming with his family to the States at age 13. He spent the school year in Ohio and his summers back in Jordan and graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in business.

After spending five years in the telecommunications world, he decided to move to Los Angeles and finally pursue his lifelong love of film. He made about 25 shorts before Mr. Pritchard made a suggestion that led to his first feature: "Why not write a movie that if Charlie Chaplin were alive, he'd want to be in?" (His grandfather and the Italian classic "Cinema Paradiso" also served as inspiration.)

"Captain Abu Raed" wouldn't have worked if not for the talents of its child actors. They were found in "a very unconventional way," Mr. Matalqa noted: He and producers visited six refugee camps. After meeting about 200 children, they settled on 12, 10 of whom are fatherless. The film has changed their lives dramatically.

More and more movies — including Brian De Palma's 2007 film "Redacted" — are being filmed in Jordan, as it's an easy double for Iraq. Most don't show real life inside Jordan itself. Mr. Matalqa hopes his film will help change that — and present a non-stereotypical view of the Arab world to outsiders.

Mr. Pritchard talked about how just before Sundance, the film was shown to Mormon high schoolers in a small town in Utah. They loved the film and gasped when the beautiful — and without head scarf — lead actress told them afterward that she is a Muslim.

"That's how you break down the cultural barriers," Mr. Pritchard said.

The producer predicts the film will end up making a couple more firsts. "I know we're going to get nominated for the Academy Award. I know we're going to get nominated for the Golden Globe," he declared.

Monday, May 19, 2008

From Cannes to DC to Spain to Taiwan...

Cannes has been like a zoo. It's like a fish market, except they're selling films and people wear nice clothes. Did I ever mention how uncomfortable I am in a suit? It reminds me of my telecom days, but I'll be back in my jeans after tomorrow. Being in the Cannes film market is humbling. While Captain Abu Raed has gotten tons of attention at the festivals, here at the market, it is one of a million other films. Just walking up the street, your senses get overloaded with giant billboards for multi-million dollar marketing campaigns for films from all over the world. And here we are, little ol' Jordan. It's a reminder that we are an independent film from the independent world competing with a zillion other independent films fighting for buyers' time and money.

But it is very comforting that we are in the hands of Fortissimo Films, and their reputation is gold, which makes me feel great every time I hear that from people when they ask me about who's selling the film. I got to meet Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love) at the after party last night. Fortissimo is handling his film Ashes of Time. We're in great company. It just takes time for "foreign" films to make their way around the world.

We just sold Captain Abu Raed to Spain and Taiwan and have a slate of territories in negotiation that you will hear about soon enough.

Shooting Stars is distributing the film across the Arab world, and we will be opening in the United Arab Emirates at the end of June and will move on the Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bahrain... and the rest of the Middle East after that. I will announce the date in the next blog.

In the morning I head to Washington DC for a private special screening that I'm really looking forward to.

And then back to LA so I can get back to writing.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Abu Raed goes to Pixar

Thursday night we had a fantastic screening in San Francisco thanks to the folks at the Arab Film Festival. It was a really enthusiastic crowd of Arabs, Americans, and Arab Americans. One of our missions with this film is to bridge the gap of this cultural divide. It was such a thrill not only to play for 400+ people in San Fran, but also to play at PIXAR the next day. There were Captain Abu Raed posters all over the studio that gave us Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and soon Wall-E, which I am dying to see! Thank you Ryan and Fadi for getting us to screen at Pixar. YAY! I have to say, the energy and the spirit of the creative people there is such an inspiration. It comes across in every one of their films.

Next up, Cannes!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Captain Abu Raed goes to Scotland! And New York!!

We are delighted to announce that Captain Abu Raed has been selected for the prestigious Edinburgh International Film Festival.

We will be playing on both June 22nd and June 27.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS and to get tickets.

Edinburgh is gearing up to be the Sundance of Europe, celebrating new discoveries in international cinema. I will be there.

Also, Captain Abu Raed will be playing in New York at Sundance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on June 7 & 8. I will also be there for Q&A.


Also, if you are going to Cannes, Captain Abu Raed will be at the Cannes Film Market, screening for the industry on May 17, 18, and 19. I will be there.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Nadim Sawalha and Rana Sultan Win Newport Best Actor and Actress Awards

Nadim Sawalha and Rana Sultan won both the Best Actor and Best Actress Jury Awards for their stellar heart-warming performances in Captain Abu Raed at the Newport Beach Film Festival as the film closed the festival with a packed screening of over 600 people at the Lido Regency Theater. It was such a thrill!

The festival presented 360 films from 37 countries. This was magnificent news we learned as we were heading to the closing screening when the jury announcement was made.


The audience reception of the film was spectacular! Mabrook to the Captains, Nadim and Rana!!!