By Patricia Lee Sharpe
Captain Abu Raed is a movie that confronts the great puzzle behind all imaginative literature: fiction by definition is not fact. It isn’t true because it doesn’t depict actual happenings. And yet it’s not deceptive, deceitful or destructive of the good. In fact— so to speak, it’s life-enhancing, as we learn once again, falling under the power of the accidental storyteller of a poor hillside enclave in Amman, Jordan.That’s Captain Abu Raed, who doesn’t fly jets. He’s only an aging janitor at the airport who, one day, finds a captain’s hat in a trash can and pops it jauntily on his white head as he trudges home from the bus stop. He isn’t quite an “abu” any more either. His son Raed died years ago. So Abu Raed is a gentle widower who spins yarns about his non-existent travels to neighborhood kids desperate to dream and enlarge their horizons. Are dreams lies? Are dreamers liars? Gather round to hear more about this delightful film.
We’ll meet a fairy princess. Her name is Nour, meaning “light,” and she flies in the guise of a beautiful (but not tarted up) airline pilot, so she is an honest-to-goodness Captain. Her upper middle class father wants her to come down to earth and marry and fill his house with grandchildren. Most anyone (with money) will do, it seems. We viewers cringe as we meet a parade of possible suitors. But Nour loves flying. She doesn’t want to be grounded.
Eventually she confides in Abu Raed, with whom she became acquainted when her expensive car broke down and she was forced to use the airline’s employee bus service. He tells her to follow her heart, her dreams, as he was never able to do. It’s a lovely scene that takes place on the terrace that goes with Abu Raed’s tidy little flat, a terrace with an unobstructed view of Amman sprawling over its hills—and of the open sky through which Abu Raed soars in his imagination.
Next there’s an ogre who beats women and tortures kids and must, eventually, be dealt with. The ogre appears in the guise of a frustrated father and husband who can’t make a go of his pathetic little dress shop in the city’s old bazaar. To bolster his bruised male ego, the ogre lords it over his ever fearful wife and two sons, one of whom is determined to make the younger kids in the neighborhood as miserable and despairing as he is.