Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan, home to the world’s largest number of Syrian refugees, sits on rocky terrain surrounded by barbed wire.
When filmmaker Ali El Arabi traveled there to report for the UN and the Arab League, he found people poor in opportunities, but “very rich” in one respect – they had not given up. their dreams.
Two of these dreamers, teens Fawzi and Mahmoud, would star in his documentary Captains of Zaatari, premiered at Sundance in the Global Film Documentary Competition. The boys were the most notable players on a refugee football team and hoped that sport would be their ticket out of the camp.
“From the first time I met Fawzi, he gave me a sentence that is engraved [in my mind]El Arabi recalls during an appearance in Deadline’s Sundance virtual studio. “He said to me: ‘The only time I feel like I’m not a refugee [on] the pitch while I play. ”
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About 80,000 people live in the camp. Some Jordanians sympathize with the refugees, El Arabi observed, but others do not.
Some see “that they are victims and that it is they who are suffering the way things are going in the world,” noted El Arabi. “[Others] are the people who really, really made me feel like I needed to make this movie because they are the people who think that “ the refugees are there to take my bread and my butter, to take my electricity, to take my water and they the help we should get. “
Fawzi and Mahmoud finally get the chance to prove their skills to the world when a scout visits the camp looking for players for a Qatari sports academy. El Arabi sees Captains of Zaatari as a universal story of never giving up.
“It’s not just about refugees,” El Arabi commented. “These are all dreamers around the world, because the dreams of these two gentlemen [Fawzi and Mahmoud] have dreams that you can find in USA, Brazil, India, China, all over the world. “
Watch the conversation in the video above.