Jordanian director Naji Abu Nowar wanted to make a feature film about Bedouins, inspired particularly by the dramatic possibilities inherent in the sacred law of hospitality, or dakheel: If a stranger arrives at your tent requesting refuge, it is your duty to grant him protection until the threat can be peacefully resolved – even if he has killed a member of the host’s own family. In Bedouin culture, a man’s reputation is defined by what he does in such difficult circumstances, and one with the strength of character to endure such an ordeal would be called a theeb, meaning “wolf.”
Thence comes the title of Abu Nowar’s new movie Theeb, whose story is predicated on the question, “What would happen if you were stranded with your worst enemy but needed their help to stay alive?” It’s also the name of a young boy who is one of the film’s protagonists, along with his older brother Hussein. The year is 1916. While war rages in the Ottoman Empire, Hussein raises his younger brother in an isolated traditional Bedouin community. Their quiet existence is suddenly interrupted when a British Army officer and his guide ask Hussein to escort them to a water well located along the old pilgrimage route to Mecca. The young, mischievous Theeb chases after his brother, but the group soon find themselves trapped amidst threatening terrain riddled with Ottoman mercenaries, Arab revolutionaries and outcast Bedouin raiders.
Set in the land of Lawrence of Arabia and described as a “Bedouin Western,” Theeb has won high critical praise as an epic adventure and coming-of-age story, garnering a slew of awards on the international festival circuit. It will be Jordan’s official submission this year for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Theeb will have a special screening at Upstate Films Rhinebeck at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4 – two days ahead of its official New York theatrical opening at Lincoln Plaza Cinema – with the director on hand for a live question-and-answer session. It will be screened in Arabic with English subtitles. For more info, visit https://upstatefilms.org/coming-soon/theeb.