A Bedouin boy’s coming of age
This first feature film by the director, tells the story of a young boy’s awakening to the dangers and treachery in the adult world. Theeb lives in a time of change, during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, and the coming of a railway has already changed the lives of the tribesmen of the area. There are bigger things happening on the world stage around them, than these tribesmen, living out their traditional lives, actually realize. One day Theeb’s older brother Hussein, is approached by another Arab who doesn’t know the area, and who is guiding an Englishman in a desert crossing to a particular well. Hussein, continues the family tradition and doesn’t ask too many questions about who the Englishman is, or why he wants to go to the well. Hussein and Theeb come from a family of pilgrim guides, and Hussein agrees to escort them to the well.
Theeb disobeys his brother and tags along, He’s anxious to observe and learn from his older brother, and this is looks like a perfect opportunity. By the time Theeb reveals himself, it’s too late to send him back. From events that take place on this journey, comes his rapid advancement into manhood.
The desert settings shot in wide-screen ratio are superb and it’s the dawn of a new age, unbeknown to Theeb and his brothers, sons of a departed but highly respected leader.
The direction by Abu Nowar is very assured with the adventure story holding our attention at every minute of the film. The performances are excellent, particularly the intelligent wariness (tinged with fear), that young Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat shows, playing Theeb (Wolf). You can read in his eyes, and face that his sharp mind is calculating the risks of alternative courses of action during the several scenes when events reach crisis points. From watching this young man, we understand that the life of desert tribesmen involved strong traditions, a strong sense of hospitality to other travelers (once identified and shown not to be a threat), acute observational powers and the sharp sense of self protection that must always be at 100% efficiency.
It’s always wonderful to see a well-made film like this, but it’s a special treat when the events are happening in a place and time, that is unfamiliar to us on screens of today. “Theeb” reminds us of Lawrence of Arabia, because of its setting, but the film is on a much more modest scale than that epic masterpiece. However, it is very well worth our attention. It is the Winner of Best Director award in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival, 2014. Shot in Jordan, using mostly non-professional actors. The feeling is very authentic, and actually the plot resembles a 1950s Hollywood Western movie. It just goes to show that the same sort of dramas play themselves out in every time and place…. always have and always will. This is the story of the human condition – families, traditions, homelands, strangers who may or may not be enemies, war, life, death.