• FILM

  • SEARCH FOR

Theeb

Theeb

Directed by Naji Abu Nowar. Starring Jacir Eid, Hussein Salameh, Hassan Mutlag, Jack Fox. (2015, NR, 100 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 4, 2015

About as perfect a companion piece to David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia as one could hope for, this first feature from Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar is that country’s official entry into the upcoming Academy Awards. It’s 1916, and Theeb (newcomer Jacir Eid), a young Bedouin boy, is forced to fend for himself after he jumps camp to follow his beloved older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh) on a mission to guide a British army officer (Fox) to a long-abandoned well. Once there, they find that bandits, presumably, have slaughtered the Brit’s men. A moonlit battle ensues, leaving Theeb the only survivor, but for one: a wounded marauder (Hassan Mutlag). “Without me you will die,” he tells the boy, and therein hangs the tale of Theeb (the name, fittingly, means “wolf”), and his accelerated journey from wide-eyed innocent to desperate young man.

Nowar’s rapturously shot film (by Wolfgang Thaler, of Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy) captures both the sprawling, voidlike emptiness of the desert and its chilly, inhumane beauty, but the focus remains on young Theeb and the unnamed killer with whom bloody circumstances force him to travel. If that sounds like a riff on the great American Western, well, it is. Sergio Leone and John Ford would likely both recognize Nowar’s film as an echo of their own Monument Valley adventures. David Lean, maybe not so much. Something of a microcosmic mirror image to the grand, epic overkill of T.E. Lawrence’s Arabian knights, Theeb works a similar emotional and geopolitical spectrum from a far more intimate angle. It succeeds brilliantly, thanks in no small part – pun unintended – to the riveting work of the pint-sized Jacir Eid, who bypasses cute ’n’ plucky and goes straight to contemplative badass as his life and entire world spin out of control before his eyes. Viewed from the perspective of this young Bedouin, Theeb presages both the treacherous partitioning of Arab lands at the end of the Great War, as well as all the terrible echoes of the colonialism that continue to plague us today.

READ MORE
More by Marc Savlov
All Nighter
A father searches for his daughter with the help of her ex-boyfriend

March 24, 2017

T2 Trainspotting
The sequel to the 1996 classic

March 24, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Theeb, Naji Abu Nowar, Jacir Eid, Hussein Salameh, Hassan Mutlag, Jack Fox

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)