Captains of Zaatari by Egyptian director Ali El-Arabi will be shown next October at the International Asian Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Mahmoud and Fawzi have been living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Though they both have no sense of what the future holds for them, they focus their energy together on their first love: soccer. Despite the dire circumstances in the camp, they practice day in and day out, believing firmly that playing professionally is their ticket to freedom.
When Aspire Academy, one of the world’s leading sports academies, arrives to pick players for an international tournament in Doha, they quickly identify Mahmoud as a talent and fly him there, while Fawzi is left behind due to a technicality. Mahmoud is boarding a plane for the first time and is taking in the experience, while Fawzi is facing the difficult reality in Zaatari.
Unexpectedly, the Aspire coaches decide to fly Fawzi in to join his team. The two best friends train and compete in the most important soccer matches of their lives, while their families in Zaatari watch via satellite. After the final match, they speak at a press conference. On behalf of the displaced people of Syria, they make clear that people need an opportunity, not pity. Three years later they grew to young men. They are still stuck in Zaatari, still troubled by fears of an insecure future.
Mahmoud Dagher told Zaman Al-Wasl that he had been playing football with his friend Fawzi Qatlish in Zaatari camp five years ago, so an Egyptian delegation came to find out the situation of the refugees inside the camp, and among them was the director Ali Al-Araby. He met us and put forward the idea of the film that he intends to make, adding that he and his friend explained to him the refugee situation and that they have dreams like all human beings striving to achieve. After a while, it was agreed to document our daily lives and our football practice with the camera, and filming continued for six years at intervals.
"Mahmoud, 23, and his friend suffered a lot during filming, especially in the winter and the nature of the muddy land in the camp, but they were filming as if they were practicing their normal lives without making or acting, hence the aesthetic of the film - as he says - adding that the director asked them Once, why do they play football? His friend Fawzi replied that when he plays football, he feels like it is outside his world and not a refugee in a forgotten camp, and this is what gave him patience, will and fulfilment of the dream of reaching the world.
Dagher expressed his happiness to participate in a movie that reached international festivals, and because this experience was interesting, especially as it reflects reality without falsification or fabrication, adding that it was his love for football that encouraged him to participate in this film, which summarizes his reality and dreams. As for acting, he does not know if he will repeat his experience, or not.
Filmmaker: Ali El Arabi