Captains of Zaatari

Director: Ali El Arabi

Institute History

  • 2021 Sundance Film Festival


Like many young people around the world, best friends Fawzi and Mahmoud are obsessed with soccer. But for the past several years, the teenagers have been stuck in Zaatari, the world’s largest camp for Syrian refugees, located in Jordan. With uncertain legal status and an interrupted education, their prospects are limited. On the local soccer pitch, however, they can imagine a brighter future as professional athletes, a path to escaping the camp and providing for their families. When scouts from a world-renowned Qatari sports academy visit Zaatari, Fawzi and Mahmoud believe they might be able to realize their dreams—if given the opportunity.

Making his feature directorial debut, Ali El Arabi crafts an intimate portrait of friendship and of enduring hope in the face of the most challenging odds. Employing an observational approach, El Arabi captures indelible moments—late-night bantering between best friends, anguish over unexpected setbacks, the boys joyfully running barefoot through a soccer field—that immerse the audience in Fawzi and Mahmoud’s experiences—and in their dreams.

Screening Details


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