On DVD and Blu-ray: Captain Abu Raed
The Jordanian film Captain Abu Raed was well-received when it toured the festival circuit in 2008, winning the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance that year among its several honors, but it never obtained wider distribution in theaters. Now that it's available on DVD, maybe it will finally get a broader audience it requires -- after all, you can't make a message film about helping others and changing young lives without wanting the world to see it.
The film is tonally similar to Italian films like Life Is Beautiful or Cinema Paradiso - old man teaches escapism and hope to impressionable young kids - but the emotion toward the end gets a bit heavy handed. Actor Nadim Sawalha (recognizable as the go-to guy for all your Middle Eastern character acting needs for forty years) is "Captain" Abu Raed, a childless, widowed janitor who tells tall tales to neighborhood children about his worldly adventures after they mistake him for a pilot. By telling them stories about far-off places, he learns to accept that his own fate is to stay right where he is. (Okay, that's just my tag-line-worthy lesson, but it's not far off.)
In "The Making Of Captain Abu Raed" featurette, Jordanian-American filmmaker Amin Matalqa explains that group of children in the film were all discovered in Amman refugee camps, and they're an impressive bunch of actors. Makes you wonder why the Slumdog kids got all the attention. For such a small film, the extras on the DVD are plenty. There's the making-of documentary, an eight-minute feature about the film's score, and two commentary tracks (one with Matalqa and producer David Pritchard, the other with Matalqa and composer Austin Wintory) that probably could have (nay, should have) been combined into one. All the bonus features are informative and juicier than your typical extras: fights amongst angry Amman residents upset by the filming! Dirt about cute but bossy child actors! It's fun stuff. Including both commentaries, you're looking at hours of extras. In the interest of time, we suggest just watching the making-of featurette to round out the viewing experience.
Buyer, Renter or Coaster?: Renter.
Amazon DVD Price: $22.49