Winner of the best director award at the Venice Film Festival, Theeb (Wolf) is a powerful story of one Bedouin boy's journey to manhood, filmed in the stunning area around Wadi Rum and Wadi Arebeh. Part Western / part Lawrence of Arabia and set in 1916, there is a brutal raw honesty to the film, and you can't help but feel that it was made in the 70's. This is the first film from British director Naji Abu Nowar.
Theeb (Jacir Eid) is part of a highly respected Bedouin family, his father has passed away, and now his older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh) is in charge. They are pilgrim guides and knowing how to survive in the harsh desert is their traditional way of life. Real life cousins, the affection portrayed is genuine and like most of the cast they are non professional actors, however given the success of Theeb, I can see it may revitalize the Jordanian film industry and possibly lead to future roles for them.
Welcoming strangers to sit and join in for a meal is at the cusp of the story. A British soldier (Jack Fox) arrives one night with his escort (Marji Audeh). They need a guide to take them to a well near the newly built Ottoman train tracks. The arrival of the train line in 1916 threatens the way of life for the pilgrim guides, as the journey to Mecca will no longer be made by camel, and guides won't be needed. Hussein agrees to take them to the well, but insists on Theeb staying behind at the camp. Sunset over the mountains is achingly beautiful as the tale unfolds, with a willful young boy following his brother, and eventually joining them on their journey.
Intrigue and danger occur in an ambush, and not wanting to give away too much let's just say it becomes a fight for survival in a very original way. I really like the way good and evil become blurred, and restoring family honor is the end goal.
Abu Nowar spent a year in the village of Shakiriya, where some of the last Bedouins to have lived a nomadic life now reside. The elders still know how to hunt, track and find water, although the youth are now reliant on four-wheel drives and modern plumbing. The villagers were inspired by the story though, as they could see this film was a way of preserving their culture. For the Bedouin's to be named Theeb, means you have earned respect as a man of cunning and daring, and it is this that our hero has to live up to.
The UK release date is set for August 14th.