1916. We are in the Ottoman Empire and young Theeb (meaning “wolf” in Arabic) is standing by a tombstone marked by a single triangle. Theeb’s father is buried there. He was a Bedouin Sheikh. Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) and his older brother, Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen), and their Bedouin tribe are living in the Jordanian desert. Bedouins are peaceful. First time director Naji Abu Nowar says, “In Bedouin law, if a stranger arrives at your tent requesting refuge, you must grant him protection until the threat can be peacefully resolved. This is known as the law of Dakheel”. So when British soldier Edward (Jack Fox) and his guide come and asks for an escort, new Sheikh, Hmoud, sends Hussein with them. The blond stranger has picked Theeb’s curiousity. And what is in that mysterious wooden box that nobody is allowed to touch? Theeb secretly follows the men but he is stranded when he gets thrown off his camel. So Theeb winds up traveling with Hussein and Edward. They are attacked by a group of violent Bedouin thieves. Theeb has to survive the most dangerous situations and even come face to face with one of the thieves (Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh). Except for British actor Jack Fox, Nowar has used non-professional actors. The most impressive of those is young Jacir, who is in every scenes and literally carries the film. Despite its apparent Oriental locations and subject, Theeb is very much an Occidental production. The director was born in the UK, editor Rupert Loyd also took a producer credit. The stunningly beautiful photography is by Austrian cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler. The score by London based composer Jerry Lane is perfect, but he does not fall into the expected trap of exotic, traditional intrumentations and instead, he uses the full orchestral palette to tell a story that is completely foreign to us westerners. Just as Maurice Jarre did with Lawrence of Arabia. But Nowar also plays around with silences. The sparseness of the dialogue are loaded with meaningful silences. But silence can be deadly. And at night in the desert, in the dark when silence is interrupted by sudden, deafening chaos. Highly recommended.
And the Oscar went to… Best foreign language film went to Son of Saul from Hungary.
Naji Abu Nowar
Naji Abu Nowar
Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat
Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen
Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh
In Arabic and English with English subtitles