Captain Abu Raed

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Captain Abu Raed

Eager, earnest and ultimately a little too easy on the conscience, Amin Matalqa’s Jordanian melodrama is social commentary with the gloss of classical Italian drama. The filmmaker is well aware of the dissonance of everyday life in Amman—where husbands beat wives, enabled by indifferent neighbors, and children are kept home from school to work—but he relegates those more serious issues to the sidelines.

At the fore is Abu Raed (Sawalha), a widower who mops the floors at the airport in between imaginary conversations with his late wife. Wearing a pilot hat he found in the trash, Abu is mistaken for a globe-trotter by the neighborhood children. They beg this “world traveler” for stories of faraway lands, but the elderly custodian quickly becomes more focused on their ordeals, committing himself to giving these young working-class dreamers a shot at a hopeful future. One gentle soul, alas, cannot single-handedly wipe clean the problems of society. We watch Abu help this group of troubled kids, all the while craning our necks to see beyond them and catch a glimpse of the far more palpable tragedies playing out in the background. (Opens Fri; Angelika.)—S. James Snyder

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