By Kummam (Kemz) Al Maadeed
The moment ‘Theeb’ (Arabic for ‘Wolf’) began with the recitation of a poem, my senses were captured and I was transported to a forgotten world – one we don’t hear about much these days. The film is Naji Abu Nowar’s feature-film debut, and right from the opening title, his future as a director looks very promising.
And after this enchanting start, the film maintains its promise. Set in Arabia in 1916, ‘Theeb’ tells the story of the eponymous Bedouin boy and the journey he took when a British Army officer asks Theeb’s elder brother Hussein to act as his guide through the desert to a water well on the old pilgrimage route to Mecca. Hussein tells the boy to stay with the tribe, but Theeb is young and mischievous, so he follows the travellers at a safe distance. When their journey is cut short by Ottoman mercenaries and local rebels, Theeb must struggle to find his way home.
As a drama adventure, the pace of the film is moderate, but that doesn’t make you feel bored or look away. Instead, the pace slows at just the right moments, allowing us to empathise with Theeb; then it picks up again as he faces a new challenge. And I really admire the attention to detail in this film! For example, Theeb’s hair is messy and full of dust; he has a splotch of blood on his check when another character is injured; and the amazing perfection of the wardrobe. All of this gives the film major authenticity, and shows serious effort, even though it all looks quite natural.
Director Abu Nowar truly recreates a world that to some extent still exists in the Arab world, whether in the real nomadic tribes of the Arabian Peninsula, or in the heart of Arabian history. Even though the film focuses on Theeb, its background plot is rich with the political situation of the time when the collapsing Ottoman Empire controlled this part of the world.
‘Theeb’ won the Best Director award when it had its premiere in the Orrizonti Competition at the Venice Film Festival this year, as well as awards at the recent Abu Dhabi Film Festival, when Abu Nowar was also named Arab Director of the Year by ‘Variety’ magazine. The film also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Discovery BFI London Film Festival.
‘Theeb’ screens at the Ajyal Youth Film Festival at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, 2 December, at the Katara Opera House (K16-OH) and again at 2:45 PM on Saturday, 6 December at the Katara Drama Theatre (K16-DT).
For more information on the film, to watch the trailer and to buy tickets, please click here .