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In the quest for better understanding between the West and the Middle East, a film like Captain Abu Raed, which shows during Filmfest DC’s “Arabian Sights” series this weekend, proves that if nothing else America doesn’t have a monopoly on feel-good fare. Amin Matalqa’s film stars Nadim Sawalha as Abu Raed, an introverted, aging man sweeping floors at the airport in Amman, Jordan. When he discovers a captain’s hat dumped in a garbage can, he soon parks it on his head and fancies himself a storyteller, charming the neighborhood kids with finely spun tales about his travels around the world. Add in Nour (Rana Sultan), an honest-to-goodness pilot who builds a platonic friendship with Abu Raed while rolling her eyes at the wealthy suitors her dad sets her up with, and there’s little to distinguish what follows from a Disney film about following your dreams, looking beyond class, etc. (The film’s international ambitions are clear; it’s Jordan’s entry for next year’s Oscars.) Though it mostly goes down smoothly—-and to be fair, there are plenty of gorgeous shots of Amman’s neighborhoods and skyline—-a subplot involving an abusive husband living within Abu Raed’s earshot restores some balance and realism to the proceedings. You wish Ghandi Saber had more screen time, even though his every appearance translates into more damage to his wife and kids. Matalqa and producer David Pritchard will attend the screenings.
Captain Abu Raed screens at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, and 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, at Goethe-Institut Washington, 812 7th St. NW. $10. (202) 724-5613. See Filmfest DC’s Web site for a complete schedule of films in the series showing this weekend.