Synopsis: In the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, a young Bedouin boy experiences a greatly hastened coming of age as he embarks on a perilous desert journey to guide a British officer to his secret destination.
Release Date: November 27, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Adventure, Drama
In the Arabic language, the word Theeb means “Wolf.” It is also the name of the title character of an Arabic movie.
The eponymous Theeb is a young boy, played by Jacir Eid, who is growing up amongst his Bedouin people in Arabia during World War I. With the help of his older brother, Hussein (Hussein Salameh), Theeb is learning the ways of his nomadic tribe, mastering tasks like shooting rifles and killing goats, in order to become a man in the eyes of his people. One day, a British soldier named Edward (Jack Fox) shows up with his guide, Marji (Marji Audeh), asking for an escort along the Pilgrim’s Trail to a specific well. Since Edward knew the late Sheikh of the tribe, it is agreed that Hussein will take him to his destination. When the travelers leave, Theeb sneakily follows them. By the time it he is discovered, it is too late for him to turn back and he must accompany them on their journey. The journey, however, is treacherous, as the desert is full of raiders, pilgrims, and revolutionaries, none of which are friendly, and that’s not even taking into account the harsh heat of the desert climate.
Directed by Naji Abu Nowar and written by Nowar and Bassel Ghandour, Theeb is a combination of a coming-of-age story and an incredible journey film. Theeb is forced to grow up quickly and use all of the skills he has been taught in order to survive his desert adventure. There are equal parts drama, action, and intrigue, with plenty of twists and turns along the way as Theeb makes his way through his travels. It’s a point-A to point-B movie, but the path is not a straight line.
Really, to say much more about Theeb’s adventure would spoil it; all of the people he meets and danger he finds are best experienced by the viewer for themselves as they watch the movie. Theeb is a briskly paced and engaging movie, but it is mostly in Arabic (with a few scattered English phrases uttered by Edward), so it may not be for everyone. But, for those who don’t mind reading subtitles, it’s a unique and creative underdog adventure movie.
In order to keep Theeb as authentic as possible, Naji Abu Nowar selected his cast from Jordanian locals. The only professional actor in the film is Jack Fox, who plays Edward the British soldier – the rest are all native Bedouin people. Not only does this add authenticity to the Arab roles, but it also paints Edward as exactly what he is: an outsider. Jacir Eid, who plays Theeb, has a magnetic screen personality; he is a natural actor, and he plays his role with a combination of wide-eyed innocence and crafty intelligence. Hussein Salameh, who plays Theeb’s brother, Hussein, is Eid’s real-life cousin, so the closeness of their onscreen relationship is completely organic; they’re family, onscreen and off. The choice to build the cast from indigenous Bedouin tribespeople helps to give Theeb an honest and genuine feel.
Theeb was shot by documentary filmmaker Wolfgang Thaler (Hell on Wheels, The Forgotten Space), and his visual approach is not unlike that of a classic western. Shot on location in Southern Jordand, Theeb is full of long, sweeping shots of the desolate and barren, yet still quite beautiful, landscape. The camera position changes, sometimes showing the action in a wide angle from a sniper’s eye view on top of a mountain, and other times showing the mountain from the base as if it were the eyes of one of the travelers. Either way, Thaler’s camera captures the heat and desperation of the landscape in a way that helps the audience empathize with the characters. It’s tough to say whether it’s due more to Thaler’s cinematography or to the innate wonder of the location, but the photography and imagery in Theeb is absolutely stunning.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Naji Abu Nowar
- Producer(s): Bassel GhandourRupert Lloyd
- Screenwriter(s): Naji Abu NowarBassel Ghandour
- Cast: Jacir Eid (Theeb)Hussein Salameh (Hussein)Hassan Mutlag (The Stranger) Jack Fox (Edward)Marji Audeh (Marji)
- Editor(s): Rupert Lloyd
- Cinematographer: Wolfgang Thaler
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Jamila Aladdin
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Jerry Lane
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: United Arab EmiratesQatar