Overview: Theeb, a young boy from a Bedouin tribe, finds himself on a perilous desert journey of survival, relying solely on the teachings of his older brother and the ferocity held in his own heart. 2015; Film Movement; Not Rated; 2014; 100 minutes.
Young Wolf: Theeb, which translates to “Wolf”, is like a vivacious pup: Curious, eager to learn, and defiant of danger. When an Englishman comes to his tribe’s encampment in Bedouin, his curiosity accordingly swells, and when his older brother Hussein is granted the task of guiding the foreigner to the next well, Theeb sees an opportunity for adventure that the young wolf does not intend on let go to waste. Theeb’s decision forces him to engage in a game of survival amongst the animals indigenous to the desolate sands.
Into the Wild: In director Naji Abu Nowar’s hands, Theeb’s inner spirit hangs about him, with a certainty emanating from his eyes, easily seen as a stubborn determinedness, and although Theeb does not speak often, his words are weighed and measured carefully before leaving his lips, a far cry from his more energetic, physical nature. Often, his words cause a mild state of bewilderment (as, I realize, surely if I were to always say what I thought I should say in any given situation, I would shock my peers, too). In the film, Theeb’s air of innocence as a young child causes his blood to rush in every situation he finds himself in, the action depicted on screen in Theeb slightly anxiety-inducing, because the last thing you want to see is such a spirited boy die at the mercy of the desert, left as carrion for the raiders and looters of his arid homeland.
Native Adversity: Theeb’s survival and coming of age story takes place in 1916, in the midst of World War I, an era of global conflict all too familiar, paralleling current political unrest the world over. As a period piece, Theeb offers an alternative perspective of a group of tribal people whom Western society might otherwise ostracize as savage or uncivilized. A theme of brotherhood flows fiercely throughout the film, not only in Theeb’s more personal relationship with his own older brother and members of their tribe, but to the visiting, English tribesmen as well, a commonality present in Theeb’s assumed naïveté and extension of goodwill; and it is through this measure for peacekeeping that we as audience member’s to the film’s narrative have not been exposed to before. Even when confronting enemies in the desert, the bonds of brotherhood are not forgotten. It is a constant connection, with ties not easily severed, and Theeb, at the disadvantage of the raiders, makes sure that you do not forget it either. The Arabian desert provides an empty landscape for Theeb and his tribe to inhabit, a void of any structural distractions, and a means by which to actively drive the characters to the forefront of the drama presented to us by the film’s director. Although arid and seemingly lifeless, the Bedouin desert in Theeb is able to carry those willing to demonstrate their resourcefulness. In Naji Abu Nowar’s film, the desert hardens and transforms a young boy and innocent, and watches as he becomes one with the native adversity.
Overall: Theeb is a quiet storm that carries a certain otherworldly secret, that strikes with fervor at optimal moments.
*Theeb is the opening film for this year’s Silk Screen Film Festival in Pittsburgh, PA, celebrating 10 years of Asian American film, dance, art and music. The festival takes place July 10th-19th. Tickets and additional information can be found here.