Premieres Feature Film at Sundance
'05 is at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah,
this week for the premiere of a feature film he edited and
produced titled, "Captain Abu Raed." Majali and his
creative team learned in November that their film had been
selected for viewing at the prestigious independent film
festival, which runs through Jan. 27.
"Our film had just gotten into the Dubai Film Festival
when we heard the good news," Majali said during a phone
interview from Utah. "It's really exciting. Out of
900 films (considered for) the world cinema dramatic
competition, they only chose 16 for the festival. There is a
lot of buzz on the film. We were originally having four
screenings at Sundance, and now we're having eight and
all of them are sold out. For Sundance, the main thing is to
get U.S. theatrical distribution with one of the big studios
that distributes independent foreign films."
Majali says he and his partners in the film always set their
"From the moment we started, we never knew how far we
could go, but we always thought good about it," he says.
"We thought nothing less than a nomination for the
Oscars. It's gratifying to see all our efforts and the
collaboration of 120 people from 16 countries end up in such
a beautiful film."
Set in Majali's native 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 Raed 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.
Through family connections in Jordan, Majali met producer
David Pritchard, whose Emmy Award-winning work includes
"The Simpsons," "King of the Hill," and
"Family Guy." Over coffee one day, Pritchard
challenged Majali and fellow Jordanian Amin Matalqa to write
an original Arab language film produced in Jordan. It took
the pair about 10 minutes to come up with the story, Majali
recalls. Matalqa wrote the first draft in a week, followed by
two years of re-writes before shooting began. They shot the
entire 90-minute film in Jordan over 24 days, with Matalqa
serving as director.
"There has never been a feature film coming out of
Jordan for theatrical distribution around the world, so to be
the first, it's quite important," Majali says.
"Hopefully, the success of this movie will start a new
movement in Jordan to think about cinema in a more serious
Majali also hopes that the success of the book and current
film "The Kite Runner" will expose more Americans
to Arab culture, including Arab films.
"'The Kite Runner' has reached people who may
never have thought to see a film in a foreign language,"
he says. "Hopefully, the success of that film will allow
films from that region to come here and find a new audience.
Film is the best way these days to communicate with other
people. When they see the characters we have in our film,
they have such universal appeal that they could be anywhere.
Having those universal themes will allow our films to cross
Majali came to Elon in 2001 as the university's first
King Hussein of Jordan Scholar. Hussein's widow, Queen
Noor, established the scholarship to help a Jordanian student
attend Elon. A communications major, Majali was one of
Elon's most visible students. He'd been on campus
less than a month when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks occurred and served as a unifying voice during campus
Today, Majali splits his time between Los Angeles and Amman.
He is looking forward to the film's premiere in Jordan on
Feb. 5. His ultimate goal is to secure an Academy Award
nomination for the film in 2009. He credits the skills he
learned at Elon for much of his early success.
"Elon is where I got my base and was allowed to develop
my own projects," Majali says. "Doing my own
projects and seeking out internships are the main things that
have helped me out. And having mentors like professor Ray
Johnson and (staff member) J. McMerty to look at my work and
help me out, that was the big thing."
Majali is working on scripts for several films as well as
indulging his other passion--photography. "I was lucky
enough to get my break and hopefully this will allow me to do
my work, which is to make films."