Theeb

Poster for Theeb

1916. While war rages in the Ottoman Empire, Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen) raises his younger brother Theeb (“Wolf,” Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) in a traditional Bedouin community that is isolated by the vast, unforgiving desert. The brothers’ quiet existence is suddenly interrupted when a British Army officer (Jack Fox) and his guide Marji ask Hussein to escort them to a water well located along the old pilgrimage route to Mecca. So as not to dishonor his recently deceased father, Hussein agrees to lead them on the long and treacherous journey. The young, mischievous Theeb secretly chases after his brother, but the group soon find themselves trapped amidst threatening terrain riddled with Ottoman mercenaries, Arab revolutionaries, and outcast Bedouin raiders.

The foursome are ambushed in a canyon, where Marji and the Brit are killed and Hussein and Theeb are forced to abandon their camels to seek shelter on higher ground. The next day, Hussein is killed, and Theeb is alone. Then a mercenary (Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh) appears, seriously injured and slumped over his camel; the two need each other to survive, yet Theeb remains wary.

British-born Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar’s powerful and assured directorial debut, set in the land of Lawrence of Arabia, is a wondrous “Bedouin Western” about a boy who, in order to survive, must become a man and live up to the name his father gave him.

“A classic adventure film of the best kind, boasting stunning locales in a well-told story about a young Bedouin boy outwitting potential enemies in the desert.” (Jay Weissberg, Variety)

“The largely non-professional cast are as authentic as the craggy, unforgiving surroundings, and the way the film balances the simplicity of its central rite of passage with a broader outlook on a people caught in the shifting sands of time is a tribute to the filmmakers’ clarity of vision. A truly memorable first feature.” (Trevor Johnston, Time Out London)