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Laith al-Majali ’05 to deliver 2010 Commencement address

Alumnus and acclaimed filmmaker Laith al-Majali will deliver Elon University's 120th Commencement address scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Under the Oaks in front of West Residence Hall.

Laith al-Majali's film “Captain Abu Raed” earned the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in 2008.

Majali is a 2005 graduate who edited and produced “Captain Abu Raed,” which earned the World Cinema Audience Award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in 2008. He was honored later that year with Elon University’s Young Alumnus of the Year Award.

"What Elon has given me, in terms of an education, no other institution would have been able to do," said Majali, a communications major while at Elon.

The Elon community is invited to a Thursday evening screening of "Captain Abu Raed" at 7:30 p.m. in McCrary Theatre.

Majali came to Elon in 2001 as the university’s first King Hussein of Jordan Scholar. He quickly distinguished himself as a campus leader, becoming an Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow and Elon Ambassador, and joining the Intercultural Relations Club. In the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Majali served as a unifying voice during campus gatherings, sharing his Arabic culture with fellow students.

Embracing Elon’s engaged learning philosophy, Majali was active in campus media, regularly volunteering to videotape athletics events and Elon Student Television programs in addition to working on his own film projects. Called a “true student of film and photography,” he often could be found working late into the night in the School of Communications, honing his editing skills. In 2002, he received an Aegis Award for a music video he produced about his hometown.

In 2004, Majali landed a film internship in Los Angeles, where he met fellow Jordanian filmmaker Amin Matalqa. The two collaborated on “Captain Abu Raed,” the first feature film to emerge from Jordan in 50 years. After winning the award at Sundance, Majali traveled the globe to promote the film and the Jordanian film industry.

Majali traces his dream of becoming a successful filmmaker to his days growing up in Amman, Jordan. He regularly accompanied his uncle to the local movie theater and became captivated by acting and filmmaking.

He appeared in his first theater production at age 6, eventually earning roles in Jordanian television shows and films. He also regaled family and friends with his impersonations of the late Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat and King Hussein of Jordan.

“Captain Abu Raed” tells the story of a lonely janitor at Amman’s International Airport who finds a discarded captain’s hat in the trash at work. A neighborhood boy spots Raed wearing the hat on his way home and believes the man is an airline pilot.

Raed wakes up the next day to find a group of neighborhood children waiting eagerly at his door. A friendship ensues, and Raed takes the children around the globe through his colorful, fictional stories and encourages them to follow their dreams.

Majali, who splits his time between Los Angeles and Amman, is working on scripts for several films as well as indulging his other passion — photography.

Eric Townsend,
5/18/2010 1:43 PM