Edinburgh International Film Festival: day two report

Danny catches up with a smashing Jordanian film, Captain Abu Raed, gets to see The Lovers for the first time, and checks out The King of Ping Pong...

Day two at the EIFF and my first early morning screening has raised its head and struck! Surprisingly not as groggy as I thought I would be, even despite staying up til two in the morning writing for you folks while my buddies played Tony Hawk’s 3 on the PS2. I’m not bitter mind, seeing how I got out of bed in time for a pretty good film.

In the catalogue all personnel at the EIFF get, Captain Abu Raed is noted as being the first Jordanian film in half a century, which is probably why the national flag flies in glorious slow-motion over the end credits. This is no over-patriotic love-in, however: the film follows Abu Raed (Nadim Sawalha), an elderly airport janitor who one day finds a discarded pilot’s cap and begins to wear it to the pleasure of the children in his neighbourhood. Not all the children around him are convinced of his tales of worldwide adventures, and one troubled youth from a broken home, Murad (Hussein Al-Sous), sets out to reveal the truth.

The film begins with scenes in which Abu Raed touchingly pours out spare cups of tea and leaves an empty space in his bed for his late wife, and we get to know him well before we arrive at the dustbin with that pilot’s cap. The pacing is elaborate as we begin to open our hearts to these characters: the curmedgeonly Abu Raed, wealthy pilot Nour, even the surly Murad. In a Hollywood film, we would expect Abu Raed’s secret to leak out in the third act yet here it happens a little before the halfway point, allowing the film to slowly move away from its audience-pleasing whimsy and turn into a far more satisfying melodrama.

Director Amin Matalqua has the good will to not let his story err on the wrong side of sentimentality, with a game supporting cast helping to supply a down-to-earth cynicism that keeps the tone levelled. Sawalha is superb in the lead, making the loveable Abu Raed flesh and bone, especially in the film’s final minutes where he fixes the audience with a wise, hundred-mile stare that really does say more than ten pages of dialogue really could. “He who chooses the humble life has guidance in his heart,” his character says earlier in the film, and this humble and initially unassuming film certainly has a lot of heart in it. (As a side note – I’m sure I heard sniffling at the press screening this morning. I really hope this film gets a general release as it could do great…)

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I meet Alex Orr of Blood Car fame in the Filmhouse just after the Captain Abu Raed screening and he was, like at his film’s Q A the night before, full of chat, telling me about how he was planning to stay in Scotland for the duration of the festival, leaving him with a chance to catch Radiohead live. Nice dude, he was telling me how he’s looking forward to all the “geeky” stuff the festival has to offer – including the retrospective of French actress Jeanne Moreau, which included a showing of The Lovers. It was my first time seeing it and it was a great watch – it was a beautiful old print, full of the little scratches and blips you’d expect, as well as the old pre-BBFC certificate screen.

Carl and I met up to see The King of Ping Pong at the Cineworld, an odd coming-of-age tale that I didn’t quite understand in any way, shape or form. Honest. I know this is one of the most unprofessional things to say but I honestly couldn’t focus on the film enough to really care and ended up trying to replicate the Louis Vuitton pattern on my notepad. Yeah, that’s boring. Wait on Carl’s review – he seemed as confused at what was happening as much as I was but at least he was paying attention.

Well, I ended up heading home later today for tomorrow’s shift at work, but not before a hit at trying to get House of the Dead 4 working so that me and Carl could slay zombies… with uzis! Alas, the coin-op machine wouldn’t work and nothing happened. Gutted. Obviously, it’s been a busy day.

I did find a Sega Saturn nearby going for £25 though! HIGHLIGHT.

Read Danny’s first report from EIFF here