‘Recyle’ and ‘Captain Abu Raed’: Jordanians at Sundance

Captain Abu Raed

I just read on Laith Majali’s blog that Captain Abu Raed has made it into the Sundance Film Festival.

The other film by a Jordanian in Sundance is ‘Recycle’ by Mahmood Al-Massad [read about it here in PDF].

This is exciting news for Jordanian filmmakers..

Two films I can’t wait to see.

Read these related posts on 360east:

8 Responses to “‘Recyle’ and ‘Captain Abu Raed’: Jordanians at Sundance”

  1. Moey Says:

    me too

  2. Eliana Says:


    I’ve just recently (recently as in two days ago) discovered your blog and I can’t help but want to leave you a comment. I’m not much of a blog reader and I’ve certainly never left a message for a perfect stranger, regardless, from the little I’ve read (I assure you, I’m hooked and will be reading more) I find myself thoroughly amused, challenged, provoked and reacting with all the excellent intellectual responses a writer would hope to draw from his/her audience.

    I found your blog when searching for info/opinion on the state of Jordans infrastucture and progression. I’m beyond delighted to find that you have 90 posts relating to the topic of architecture alone and will most definitely be reading those.

    Sorry to be so general, no real response to a specific post. Just a general hello and thanks.

  3. Oksana Says:

    Do you know when they will be out & available? I m so looking forward to the ‘Captain’!

  4. NOX Says:

    NOX…. first with everything!


  5. Ali Says:


    this has been a great year for Jordanian cinema. we had short films in Locarno, Huesca, and Clemont-Ferrand film festivals (films Sharar, Overdose, growing Up), and now we have feature films at the Sundance (films Captin Abu Raed, and Recycle)

    all in one year.


  6. ArabianMonkey Says:

    Captain Abu Raed screens at the Dubai Film Festival on Dec 11th & 12th, then end Jan at Sundance. Will be in Jordanian cinemas (Grand & Galleria) Feb 6th.

  7. Yousef Says:

    Sundance is an important festival, Dubai is just a tourist festival.

  8. Maya more Says:

    By Hazim Bitar

    There was an air of anticipation as Jordanian cinema reaches another milestone, at the Dubai Film Festival 2007, with two feature films, one fiction and the other a documentary, poised to tour the film festival circuit after a decade of vacuum in the category of feature films.

    While the limelight focused on the much anticipated Jordanian feature fiction film, hailed by official Jordanian sources as “Jordan’s first feature film in 30 years,” independent Jordanian cinema history was being made at another screening room at the festival.

    Mahmoud Massad’s premiere of his first feature documentary, Recycle, was not preceded by any media fanfare or drum rolls. At the screening, I did not know what to expect, considering that the underlying theme of Recycle had fallen victim to cliche treatments in past films.

    Mahmoud Massad is a Jordanian filmmaker born in the city of Zarqa (hence the Zarqawi term of endearment), one of Jordan’s most economically depressed and overpopulated cities, a hotbed for leftist and Islamist opposition movements and the birthplace of Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi, blamed for scores of attacks on US troops in Iraq, until his assassination in 2006.

    Soon as the festival promo was over, the film Recycle started to roll. Five minutes into the film, it was evident to me there was something special about Massad’s film. The cinematography was breathtaking. The choice of protagonist was brilliant.

    The quality of the image, which was transferred to 35mm from HDV, rivaled other films shot on high-end video cameras. But the genius in Massad’s cinematography was the ability to turn the rundown and decrepit slums of Zarqa into an intriguing cobweb of visuals that sum up the life of the Zarqa underclass, and that’s most Zarqawis (residents of Zarqa). The picture alone tells a rich and moving story.

    When I first met Massad, at a popular cafe in Amman, it was easy to underestimate this self-effacing filmmaker. He had no clan to back him up, no official media to rally the troops, and no film fund to secure his production needs. He was on his own from the start. Massad vs The World. Under similar circumstances, most Jordanian filmmakers I know would dust off their computer certificates and go for the first tech support job offer.

    Not this Zarqawi. If any, Massad’s tough childhood in Zarqa turned him into a hardened, street-smart survivor. Massad is the Cinderella of Jordanian cinema.

    The film starts with a bearded man in his late thirties, accompanied most of the time by his adorable and hyperactive child, while traveling the narrow streets of Zarqa city with his small pickup truck, hunting for cardboard boxes to recycle.
    Physically speaking, the man can pass for a stereotypical militant, the sort that sends fear through the hearts of most Westerners. By the time the film is over, it turns out things aren’t so black and white.

    Massad the Myth. Massad Mania. The Massad Model. Those were some of the tong-in-cheek complements my colleagues at the festival exchanged via mobile texting after watching his film.

    Massad the Model? I believe so. The promise of filmmaking success is what keeps many indie filmmakers in Jordan motivated. Massad’s story and the making of Recycle is another proof to those hopefuls that with persistence and storytelling talent, there is a screen at the end of the tunnel.

    The protagonist in Massad’s film is called Abu Ammar, a man who did a tour of duty in Afghanistan when the Jihad business was hip and cool in the US and the enemy was the USSR and when pro-US Arab governments facilitated the recruitment and exploitation of young Arabs.

    Abu Ammar happens to also be the nom de guerre of the late Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat. This is just one of many weird coincidences that made the film compelling. Abu Ammar is a father and a philosopher and a writer and x-mujahid and a failed businessman.

    Soon as Massad started circulating the rough cut of his film, European support started pouring through. From World Cinema Fund to the CNC, Massad’s film managed to pickup up vital financial support.

    When Massad started to shoot his film, all he had was an HDV video camera, a tripod, and few blank DV tapes. That’s all. No development fund, no production fund. No nothing. At that time, the backstage talk was accusatory. Massad’s film, it was suggested, harms Jordan’s image, a charge used often by those who feel uncomfortable whenever someone puts the spotlight on Jordan’s harsh reality and the seemingly endless cycle of poverty and despair.

    Massad migrated from Jordan to Europe in 1988 where he lived in Romania, Italy, and Germany. He settled in The Netherlands in 1995 before returning to Jordan in 2003 to help shoot a few films. He is born to Palestinian parents who were expelled during the Arab-Israeli wars.

    Massad and Abu Ammar share a birthplace, a love for family, yet one is a storyteller and the other has been immortalized by the story. Little did Abu Ammar know that his modest personal tale would one day contribute to a better understanding of the psychology of despair.

    If there is a film made in 2007 that I believe fits neatly within the category of building bridges, Recycle is it. And Mahmoud Massad has just added an invaluable building bridges, Recycle is it. And Mahmoud Massad has just added an invaluable piece to the puzzle, bolstering intercultural understanding. Films like Recycle, along with Paradise Now, will go a long way in exploring the roots of discontent in a turbulent region. Equally important, Massad has charted a roadmap for Jordanian indie filmmakers who have dreams of producing a feature film.

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