Critic: Theeb

Critic: Theeb

Dir. Naji Abu Nowar

Official Selection International Feature – Jordan

THEEBThe Richter Scale says: Things change. It’s inevitable and it’s something we’re always resisting, especially when it comes to a way of life that’s been around for centuries. Jordanian director (educated in the UK) Naji Abu Nowar makes his feature directorial debut  exploring the world of the Bedouins, these groups of people who wonder the desert like nomads, always looking out for one another and occasionally helping an outside visitor. This is a tradition that existed until fairly recently. We’re in 1916 (though the film never makes that clear, because Bedouins don’t pay attention to the concept of dates). A group of Bedouins help a British soldier find a well as part of his mission. This group includes Theeb (which means “wolf”), a boy who tagged along with his older brother for this mission and he won’t stop asking questions or nosing around. When they’re attacked by Arabs in the mountains, Theeb is left alone and must learn to survive without forgetting the most important value he grew up with: brotherhood.

The film was shot with the last Bedouin group that existed and the actors that the director chose are from the tribe, people who have never even seen a movie, which makes this into a triumph for world cinema. This group can no longer live the way they’d been living, which makes this film into a farewell to their way of life. We’re visiting a world that most are not familiar with and a culture that’s slowly disappearing. We spend the whole film in the desert and the director takes advantage of the landscape and the natural light to highlight the beauty and the danger of the place we’re visiting.

THEEB2The director insists that the Bedouins are the authors of this story as much as he is, maybe even more. This is noticeable in the tales they tell, including the constant references to the train tracks where they use to make pilgrimages on foot and have now left the guides of those pilgrimages without a purpose in life. Mostly, though, it’s about a boy who loses the protection he had  and must now decide what kind of man he wants to be, which acquires another meaning when we think that the actor grew among a Bedouin tribe that can no longer live that way. What will he do now (will he decide to keep acting?)?

This film screens today at 2:00 pm at the Auditorium of the University of Guanajuato.

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