Sunday, March 09, 2008

Captain Abu Raed

I've mentioned before that I don't watch many movies. Even less frequently do I watch movies in the theater. Until Friday night, the last time I saw a movie in the theater was when our family went together to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But, Captain Abu Raed (pronounced Ra'ed), the much acclaimed first film by Jordanian producer and director, Amin Matalqa, was definitely a film worth seeing sooner rather than later.

I'm sure that much of the recognition that we, as a family, responded to in Matalqa's artistic endeavor has to do with the fact that we have have lived in Amman for many years; for Dear Husband and I, most of our adult lives, and for our children, their entire lives. Though the lives and struggles portrayed in the film were not ours, exactly, they were lives and struggles which belong to friends or other Jordanians we've lived among and observed--so I guess, in some second party way they have been our lives and struggles as well.

With few exceptions, Matalqa does a fine job of accurately portraying life in Amman, particularly the contrast between lower socio-economic East Amman and Western influenced upper socio-economic West Amman. No exaggerations here. The cinematography, though a bit dramatic in places, was wonderful, and we all enjoyed recognizing familiar places in the film (today when we went on our family run at the park, Younger Son and I marked the exact spot where Tareq had been selling biscuits/cookies).

Though I enjoyed seeing this movie in the theater, I have to admit it is the kind of movie, that when it is over, you wish you were instantly in the privacy of your own home, alone, or with others who had just seen the film. Once we had silently navigated the chaos that is City Mall on a Friday night and were secure in the privacy of our car we began a discussion of the themes of the movie: hope, sacrifice, redemption, which lasted until after we arrived at home. While the film had some sort of resolution and what one might call a happy ending, these were in no way complete.

It was the incompleteness of resolution, among other things that caused me to consider this a good film and a film worth watching. My kids rarely appreciate me applying my analytical judgment to the films they/we watch and my philosophical awareness was only heightened as I had, just last week, read Dorothy Sayer's excellent essay, Toward a Christian Esthetic, published in Letters to a Diminished Church, Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine. In this wonderful essay, which deserves several blogs posts of its own Sayers explains the marks of a true poet or artist:

"A poet is a man who not only suffers the impact of external events but also experiences them (You only experience a thing when you can express it--however haltingly--to your own mind--also Sayers) He puts the experience into words in his own mind, and in so doing recognizes the experience for what it is. To the extent that we can do that, we are all poets. A poet so-called is simply a man like ourselves with an exceptional power of revealing his experience by expressing it, so that not only he, but we ourselves, recognize that experience as our own."

About the recognition of truth that we get from the artist's work she writes:

"I mean the recognition of truth that tells us something about ourselves that we had not been always saying, something that puts a new knowledge of ourselves withing our grasp. It is a new, startling, and perhaps shattering, and yet it comes to us with a sense of familiarity. We did not know it before, but the moment the poet/artist has shown it to us, we know that, somehow or other, we had always really known it."

Matalqa is a poet so-called and his film touches, in some ways, on this recognition of truth as Sayer's defines it. Captain Abu Raed is not a film which merely entertains, provoking the experience of emotion that usually accompanies experience without our having had the experience, nor is it a film of pseudoart, which "seeks to produce the behavior without the experience," but rather it is a film which provokes recognition and thought anew about Jordanian society and the challenges its citizens face.

As Captain Abu Raed recently won the World Cinema Audience Award at the recent prestigious Sundance Film Festival, I'm pretty sure it will be showing in theaters of some sort in the U.S. sometime in the near future.


Jenny said...

Sayer's book is on my summer reading list and I can't wait to get to it. We'll add the film as well

desert mom said...

I think you will like it, Jenny. Sayer's essay on esthetics was, alone, worth the price of the book. I will be referring to it again I'm sure--I already have plans to use some of her discussion of Plato (from the Republic) and Aristotle (from the Poetics) in my ancients class next fall. LOTS of good ideas to chew on. I'm still plodding through Meek's book, which I also began during the audition trip. I'm enjoying it as well but I think what I would really enjoy is a class discussion or conversation with Meek vs reading her book.

kinzi said...

Great post, dear friend!! I will forward the link to Amin and Nadine, the producer. :)

Jenny said...

Yes, I agree with you about having a conversation with Meek. Actually it was a talk she gave this past summer that helped me to understand her better. I also found her articles online to be of some help as well.

kinzi said...

Hey desertmom, the producer Nadine Toukan linked your post to the Captain Abu Raed FB group :)

Abla said...

GREAt post dear sister, I agree with you about the lifestyle the films addressed! visiting the eastren court and seeing that just hurt my heart as people in the other half live careless life and not satisfied with what they have! May God help us be thankful...

Amin Matalqa said...

Thank you. Your words are very kind.