Captains of Zaatari

Director Ali El Arabi / 2021 / Egypt

This poignant ode to football and friendship takes us into the heart of the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp, where two soccer-obsessed teens see the beautiful game as their way out.

While filming in the immense Zaatari refugee camp for his day job as a journalist, Ali El Arabi met two teenage soccer lovers, Fawzi Qatleesh and Mahmoud Dagher. Struck by their irrepressible optimism and diehard belief in the sport’s capacity to offer hope for a better life, El Arabi spent the next half-decade visiting the Jordanian settlement and documenting the boys’ lives. The best friends train and play daily, and maintain seemingly impossible dreams of going pro – until the arrival of a famed Qatari scout brings those dreams palpably into focus.

Exquisitely filmed in rich, lush tones by cinematographer Mahmoud Bashir, Captains of Zaatari warmly captures youthful aspiration against the daily realities of life in the camp and lack of opportunity. Qatleesh and Dagher are a joy to spend time with, and El Arabi’s empathetic approach to telling their story makes this debut feature documentary a unique and vital portrait.

“Stunningly cinematic … A coming-of-age tale, an underdog story and an urgent humanitarian statement rolled into one, Captains of Zaatari claims a special place among all the recent documentaries about the Syrian crisis.” – Variety

Presented by The Monthly

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