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CAPTAIN ABU RAED – Austin Wintory

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The first film made in Jordan for over 50 years, Captain Abu Raed was that country’s first ever Foreign Language Film submission, at the 2008 Academy Awards. Directed by Amin Matalqa, the film stars Nadim Sawalha as the titular character, a cleaner at Amman’s International Airport, who after finding a discarded pilot’s hat in the trash, is mistaken for a pilot by some local children, who he then regales with fantastical stories of his world travels. Eventually, Abu strikes up a friendship with a boy named Murad, who is being abused by his drunken father. After one particularly violent episode, Abu vows to try to help Murad and his mother escape from their domestic hell.

The score for Captain Abu Raed is by Austin Wintory, a young Colorado-born composer who had long been a prominent member of the online film music community prior to embarking on his career as a film composer. Written for a large symphony orchestra, Wintory’s music sparkles with life, wit and vitality, and has a sophistication and thematic strength that belies the composer’s comparatively tender age. Cues such as “The Storyteller” are energetic, carefree dances that reflect the film’s setting, while cues such as “Tea with Um Raed”, “The Two Captains” and “Goodbye” have a high quota of emotional pathos, which is achieved through tender string writing, delicate harp solos, and an overall air of thoughtfulness, clearly alluding to the unconventional relationship between Abu and Murad.

Wintory is also not averse to peppering his score with action material, with “Escape” standing out for its thrusting string rhythms and sense of urgency. The few concessions to traditional Arabic music are limited to the use of certain percussion items, and a few rhythmic ideas that crop up in cues such as “Airport Revelations” and “Abu Murad”; otherwise, this is a defiantly Western-sounding score that has a clear, straightforward emotional narrative that will certainly appeal to many. The conclusive “In the Fog” features a wordless soprano vocalist to superb effect, giving the album a sensitive, reflective conclusion.

This is a superb debut score from Wintory, a kudos should also be given to the producers at BuySoundtrax Records for giving a hitherto unknown composer some exposure to the mainstream film music world. I’d keep my eyes and ears peeled for more music from Wintory in the years to come.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Prologue (0:32)
  • Tea with Um Raed (2:09)
  • Finding the Hat (0:55)
  • Meet Captain Abu Raed (1:00)
  • The Storyteller (1:56)
  • More Stories (1:29)
  • Lost Bag (0:13)
  • The Two Captains (1:56)
  • Amman (0:54)
  • Dreams of Flight (0:36)
  • Airport Revelations (2:06)
  • Abu Murad (0:41)
  • Candy Men (0:23)
  • Forgiveness (0:45)
  • Tea with Nour (2:30)
  • New Morning (1:51)
  • Rite of Passage (1:21)
  • Tareq’s Farewell (0:58)
  • Temptation (2:44)
  • Escape (1:59)
  • Goodbye (3:10)
  • A New Beginning (0:55)
  • Epilogue (1:27)
  • In The Fog (End Titles) (3:36)

Running Time: 36 minutes 06 seconds

BuySoundtrax Records BSXCD 8858 (2009)

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