Theeb (2014) – Naji Abu Nowar

 

Opening today at the Lightbox here in Toronto, as well as Vancouver and Calgary, with additional locations to follow on December 18, is the latest work from award-winning director Naji Abu Nowar. Shot in Jordan, and being submitted as their official Oscar Entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2016 Academy Awards, comes this starkly beautiful coming of age tale couched as an adventure-drama.

Set during the First World War, young Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat), which is Arabic for Wolf, is the youngest of three sons of the recently deceased Sheikh. Tagging around with his older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyen), he learns tentatively how to shoot, and takes his first steps to manhood amongst his people.

He seems happy with his life, curious to see what there is of the world, but the reality of the world comes shattering in, when one evening, a British Officer, Edward (Jack Fox) steps out of the dark and into the lives of Theeb and his brother.

It seems Edward has a mission, and needs a guide to lead him into the desert, and to his secret destination beyond.

Leaving his Bedouin tribe behind, Theeb trails after the expedition, led by Hussein, eventually travelling with them, until danger and tragedy strike, forcing Theeb to confront not only his own mortality, but the concepts of loyalty, trust, revenge and even murder.

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The film is gorgeously shot, heightened all the more by the beautiful and stunning locations the filmmakers have chosen as their backdrop. Moving along at a brisk 100 minutes, the film engages, and never plays down to its audience, as Theeb is forced to deal with things beyond his age, and strive to come out on the other side as a whole person.

I was quite taken with the production of the film, and could only imagine what it would be like shooting on a film like this, as you’re not only dealing with children, the child is the lead, and of course, the animals on set as well, and of course the heat of the locations they are shooting in.

But it is those locations, and the performances that ground the film in a stark reality, as we follow Theeb on his dark tale, no joyous adventure this, as he deals with death, violence, and war. Young Jacir seems to be more than capable of the role, and he fills the screen with a realistic presence, my heart near broke when he cries out for help, his voice ringing out over the barren land, and only a mocking reply is given him.

It’s a strong film, with fantastic, subtle imagery, and a gorgeous score by Jerry Lane.

If you’re looking for something a little different this weekend, and want to savor something out of the ordinary, wander down to the Lightbox and check this one out!

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