Dir.: Naji Abu Nowar
Cast: Jacir Eid, Hassan Mutlag, HussainSalameh, Jack Fox, Marji Audeh
Jordan/UK/UAE/Quatar 2014, 100 min.
Set in Western Arabia in 1916 during the First World War, THEEB is the story of a young boy, caught up in the war between the British and the Ottoman Empire, surviving against adults in his attempt to avenge the killing of his older brother.
The brothers Theeb (Eid) and Hussein (Salameh) have recently lost their father – young Theeb taking his father’s name (which means ‘wolf’) – the older teenager Hussein takes care of Theeb, teaching him all means of survival important for Bedouins. One evening, Edward, a British soldier (Fox) and his Arab escort Marji (Audeh), arrive at the tent of the brothers’ family, asking for help to find the Ottoman railway track, which they intend to destroy. Even though the Bedouins have not taken sides in the conflict, their ancient laws regarding hospitality oblige them to help the strangers, so Hussein sets out with them to guide them to the tracks. Theeb is forbidden to join them, but he follows nevertheless. In the mountains, the four men are attacked by local bandits, who have joined the Ottoman army guarding the railway. Edward and Marji are killed, whilst the brothers escape into the mountains. Tragedy ensues and Theeb eventually teams up with a severely wounded man and, while never losing sight of his goal of revenge, the pair ride through the desert to an Ottoman military outpost.
THEEB works on multiple levels: there is the story of a young boy precipitated into adulthood way before his time; the the narrative of disappearing communities seen through the changing life of the Bedouins, who for centuries guided the pilgrims to Mecca, but who are now replaced by the railway. Due to the strict laws on hospitality for the Bedouins – even if they might not agree with the dealings of their visitors, they are obliged to offer a helping hand. Theeb becomes a victim of all these conflicting circumstances, and he pays doubly: suffering bereavement and the loss his childhood, way before time.
Shot in Jordan, DOP Wolfgang Thaler (usually working with Ulrich Seidl), has eschews folkloric images , allowing the wild landscape speak for itself. Equally, Nowar steers clear of any sentimentality, showing the Bedouins as proud warriors who follow their laws, even if they become their own victims. But most of the praise should go to Eid and the other non-professional actors, who are the soul of the story. THEEB is aan intense journey into adulthood for a young boy in a changing world. He fights with the tenacity of the name he has been given. First time director Nowar is certainly deserving of the ‘Director’s Prize’ at last year’s ‘Orrizonti’ section at Venice. AS
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