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Review: Theeb

Not so much a burner, as much as a smouldering blaze, the film Theeb by writer and director Naji Abu Nowar is a must watch.

Led by a outstanding performance from the young Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat, an actual Bedoiun, this film set in Arabia in 1916, Jordan’s entry for Best Foreign Film at next year’s Oscars, has been compared to Lawrence in Arabia from the point of view of the Arabians. But the film, Theeb, meaning Wolf, is something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Because while the film is ostensibly about events taking place one hundred years ago, one suspects that Naji Abu Nowar has an eye towards the present throughout in a wild subversion of expectations. A blond British saviour type arrives early in the film, and while he is Lawrencian, there is ostensibly more to the character than simply a riff on David Lean’s masterpiece as well as the historical events that inspired the film.

Theeb starts and ends with Al-Hwietat’s gutsy performance as Theeb, who is raised by his not-much older brother Hussein and must struggle to find enlightenment in difficult times and searching for exactly whom to trust.

At the risk of giving away too much, there is a sequence at the end of the film that once more is not a fiery conclusion, but when taken metaphorically says so much about the character and the journey that he has undertaken, (and is about to undergo, as the film finishes with a far from neat conclusion). When combined with stunning visuals and a hypnotic score, the journey of a thousand miles may appear to start with a single step in the far-reaching and powerful Theeb. This wolf has teeth.

[star v=4]