Michael Kamen, My Hero & My Friend (by Amin Matalqa)
It is always a pleasure, thanks to a tribute like this, to meet people and exchange opinions and experiences. When this special Michael Kamen drew to a close, I received an invitation to add me in facebook by Amin Matalqa, and I Think his name was familiar. In fact, he had participated in the Top Ten Kamen, voting his favorites.
After he congratulated for all the work done in this tribute, we started to talk about the composer’s work, and I suggested him to participate in the closure of the tribute to Kamen, answering me with a resounding yes.
Amin sent me this wonderful text in less than a day. It’s really emotional and beautiful, and it comes straight from the bowels of Amin, specifically from his heart. It is an open and sincere letter, truly moving, by someone who met and loved Michael Kamen, especially his humanity.
I do not want to waste more time in this brief presentation, but I want to thank wholeheartedly Amin Matalqa for crossing in our path and give us the final touch, this grand finale, to one of the largest and best talented composers, Michael Kamen.
Thanks to Gorka Oteiza for the support in the translation
Brief Biography about Amin Matalqa
Shortly after he graduated from the American Film Institute, Amin Matalqa’s first feature film, Captain Abu Raed, won the Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Audience Award in 2008. Captain also won 27 major international festival prizes and became the first Jordanian entry to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Amin was also chosen by Variety as Middle East Filmmaker of the year.
His second film, the inspiration soccer drama/comedy, The United, was Disney’s first venture into the Middle East and the first time that a major Hollywood studio produces a film for the Arab world.
Most recently, Amin completed post-production on Strangely In Love, a whimsical comedy adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s classic novella, White Nights, set in modern-day Los Angeles.
Amin was born in Jordan, but immigrated to the US in 1989, and grew up in Columbus, Ohio in a family of pilots. In 2003 he left a successful telecom career to pursue his childhood dream of filmmaking in Los Angeles. He continues to live in LA with his wife Claire and their dog Oboe. In addition to cinema and furry canines, he has a passion for film scores, WWII history, and 19th century literature.
Tribute to Michael Kamen: Editorial closing (By Amin Matalqa)
1991. I was a Jordanian immigrant teenager living in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. I’d grown up loving movies, but nothing would prepare me for the moment to come. I sat in the theater to watch a movie I had been anticipating since I’d first seen its teaser months ago. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The lights dimmed down, and the overture began. The celli repeating their opening ostinato, then the horns joining, rising, and then the trumpets and full orchestra coming together at full blast. My life would change forever. I memorized the score inside out, and film music became my addiction (still is to this day). That day, long before the internet, I discovered the music of Michael Kamen and went searching and hunting through the music shops for every album I could unearth. I devoured his music. Shining Through, his Saxophone Concerto, Hudson Hawk, Lethal Weapon. Something about his unique sound, his pathos, and his melodies affected me on such a deep level, like no other. Michael Kamen was a god, not a human being.
Then one day in late 1995, I wrote him a fan letter and sent it to his agency, Gorfain/Schwartz. I expressed how much I loved his music, but figured it would probably never get to him. This is a man busy recording albums with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Pavarotti, and scoring movies for the biggest Hollywood studios. But at least I wrote the letter and put it out into the universe.
Cut to March 19, 1996, months later. My phone rings at home and a lady says “Hi Amin? Someone wants to talk to you“. It was an odd call. Back when the home phone was bombarded with telemarketing calls. Then I hear his voice, and in an instant I recognize it. It’s him. He says “Hi Amin? I’m Michael Kamen.” Now, just try to imagine the absurd insanity of that moment. I was a nobody. A 19 year old college geek, going to business school, who loved and obsessed about Michael Kamen and idolized him, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that he would find my number and call me at home. Once again, my life would change forever.
Michael invited me to London for the recording of the finale of the Olympics, and he received me with a big warm hug, like an uncle who hadn’t seen me in ages. He radiated with charm and humor, always joking around. His love for life and people was infectious, and all I could think was “one day I wanna be like Mike“. We became friends over the years, and I would visit him at various occasions and talk on the phone every once in a while. He made you feel like you were the only person that counted. I would learn that he was like that with everyone. Michael made me see infinite possibilities in my life. He taught me that dreams do come true.
So in 2003 I finally decided to leave my business career behind and pursue my childhood dream of making movies. I moved to Los Angeles, and Michael gave me his full support. He even offered to put me up with one of his cousins. We had a wonderful long conversation just two months before he passed. He was writing an Ode to peace, which he wanted to have performed by Palestinian and Israeli children together. I was helping him find some Arabic poems for that, and then we got the news. I was devastated when Michael passed away. Too soon, too sudden. It didn’t make any sense.
Ten years later, he is still very much alive to me through his music. I went on to dedicate my first film, Captain Abu Raed, to my three heros: Michael Kamen, Basil Poledouris, and my grandfather. In my most recent film, Strangely In Love, my composer Austin Wintory at one point pays homage to the maestro with a wink using Michael’s five-note signature motif which he used in many of his scores. And at our wedding, my wife and I had our first dance to Michael’s rendition of “Beside You” from What Dreams May Come (which he’d recorded with his own voice as a demo).
One final moment I’d like to share. Back in 2002, I fell in love with two giant dogs and named them Cello and Oboe. They moved with me from Ohio to LA, and have been by my side throughout this entire journey. This October, Cello’s time had come, and he was on his last hour. My wife and I sat by his side on the floor, after many hours of crying. Finally, my wife picked up my iphone and started playing music to help us deal with this moment, and randomly Michael’s Mr. Holland’s Opus – “Cole’s Tune” came on. If I could describe this moment with words… it felt like Michael was telling me “it’s okay, you can let go now, Cello will always be with you, like me.” And I felt an incredible relief. His music spoke to me at the most difficult moment of my life. Michael never left.
Thank you Michael Kamen for being my hero and my friend, to this day and always.