Saturday, November 29, 2008

Captain Double-Wins in Kuala Lumpur

Captain Abu Raed took home two more awards last night in Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival.

Best Asian Film (the competitions are divided by continents)
Best Actor (Nadim Sawalha)

This brings our total to 21 awards. Jackpot.

In summary, here's what this little Jordanian film has won so far this year:

1. Sundance Film Festival - World Cinema Audience Award
2. Heartland Film Festival - Grand Prize
3. Heartland Film Festival - Audience Award
4. Heartland Film Festival - Crystal Heart Award
5. Traverse City Film Festival - Audience Award
6. Traverse City Film Festival - Best of the Fest Jury Award
7. Seattle International Film Festival - Best Director
8. Helsinki International Film Festival - Audience Award
9. Rehoboth Beach Film Festival - Audience Award
10. Maui Film Festival - Best Narrative Film, World Cinema
11. Durban International Film Festival - Best First Feature
12. Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival - Best Asian Film
13. Newport Beach Film Festival - Best Actor
14. Newport Beach Film Festival - Best Actress
15. Dubai International Film Festival - Best Actor
16. Buenes Aires St. Luis Film Festival - Best Actor
17. Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival - Best Actor
18. New Orleans Middle East Film Festival - Best Feature
19. Beirut International Film Festival - Best Screenplay
20. Variety Middle East Filmmaker of the Year - Amin Matalqa
21. Hollywood Music Awards - Best New Composer - Austin Wintory

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

See Slumdog Millionaire

My favorite movie of the year. Danny Boyle shines again with this film. It's everything I love about great fun filmmaking. Excellent performances across the board. Great energy, camera-work, and music. A beautiful innocent love story set across India, from the slums to the riches. And a terrific leading actor.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Austin Wintory wins at Hollywood Music Awards

Austin Wintory won the Best New Composer at the Hollywood Music Awards last night for his powerful score to Captain Abu Raed. I hope this is the beginning of a series of recognitions for Austin's rich orchestral music for the film. This is our 19th award for the film as a team. Here's to the Academy and the Golden Globe. Captain Abu Raed was my second collaboration with Austin. The first was my AFI thesis film, Morning Latte, for which he won the Film Music Award for Best Score for a Student Film.

You can listen to a bunch of his varied scores at his site

Also read THIS INTERVIEW that just went up on

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nadim Sawalha wins Best Actor in Argentina

Nadim Sawalha has won the Best Actor Award in Buenes Aires, Argentina at the St. Luis Film Festival. This is Nadim's 3rd Best Actor prize, the film's 18th prize around the world, and this makes Captain Abu Raed an award winner in five continents. More exciting stuff to come soon!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On Writing Movies

I'm starting a new screenplay today, and I feel it's important to always be reading about writing while writing because it keeps you asking questions and evoking new thoughts about your approach and such. And today I was skimming through one of the David Mamet books on writing, and he said that viewers watch films wanting to know what's going to happen next, so any scenes that dwell on backstory exposition will slow your film down. And I agree with him for the most part. But what I think is more important to me as a director is that I want the audience to want to see my film more than once. And the key to that is performance and behavior. Once you've seen the plot in a film, the question of what's next goes away. So I sit on the side of the fence that believes that character is more important than plot. And character comes from interaction. Eye contact. Blocking. Unsaid magic. Those are the things that make me want to see films over and over. That, and of course the marriage of cinematography and music.

So my bottom line: plot is the least important element. And remember that story and plot are not the same thing.

The music of Basil Poledouris

Two years ago, one of my personal heroes, legendary composer Basil Poledouris, passed away. I can tell you through words how much his music affected my life, or I can just share this amazing video collage of some of his scores. I dedicated Captain Abu Raed to three people: my grandfather, Wahbeh Jabaji (whose innocence inspired the character of Abu Raed), Michael Kamen (who was my hero growing up, and dear friend later in life), and Basil Poledouris, who I never met in person, but emailed with when I was in college, and was inspired by his love for animals, the ocean, and movies that are bigger than life.

Click to watch this awesome tribute and introduction to a master who will live forever through his incredible music.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Two more Audience Awards

Somehow I forgot to mention that we also won the Audience Award at Heartland Film Festival in addition to the Grand Prize and the Crystal Heart. Here's what they wrote...

"...And in what most saw coming a mile away, Grand Prize Winner Captain Abu Raed took home the double-play of honors with the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature, too. Amin Matalqa’s quiet observation on dreams and possibilities is making a splash at festivals around the world, and it captured crowds in Indianapolis, too."

This was the first time that a subtitled foreign film wins the Grand Prize, let alone the audience award. There were 620 feature films submitted to Heartland this year.

Then last night I got an email notifying us that we won the Best Feature award at the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival in Delaware. This brings our total to 17 major festival awards. I apologize if my blog has turned into award announcement central, but it's a good place to keep people informed and preserve these memories.

This week Captain Abu Raed played in Argentina in Buenes Aires. I wish I could've gone, but now that we have US Theatrical distribution, I can rest a little and focus my attention on my next movie. I've written three scripts while traveling with the Captain, and now it's time to get them made. I'll write more about what's next next time.

See you at the movies.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Captain Abu Raed gets US Theatrical Distribution from NeoClassics Films

Captain Abu Raed receives US theatrical distribution from NeoClassics Films along with UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. The film will be released in January/February starting with New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In the meantime, the Captain will be released in Beverly Hills tomorrow November 7th for one week for Oscar qualification for Best Actor, Nadim Sawalha, and Best Original Score by Austin Wintory. So if you're in LA, come on down and bring your friends.


And here's the link to the DISTRIBUTION ANNOUNCEMENT

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

God Bless America. God Bless President Obama

It's a new beginning, a new era, a new America. I am so proud and overjoyed. As we watched the electoral votes come in last night, it was very clear. We were watching a historic moment. I hope the country will unite to heal as the world unites to heal, and a new chapter in world relations begins under president Barack Obama.