Theeb (15)

Directed by Naji Abu Nowar
Picturehouse, Liverpool
14th August - 27th August 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Although acclaimed in some quarters I found the film, set in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, flawed in several ways. For example the acting, mainly by non-professional Bedouin actors, was iffy, to coin a phrase, at times, which lessened the impact of the story. But then again what was the story?

In essence a young boy Theeb (meaning 'wolf') (Jacir Eid) joins up uninvited in the desert with his two elder brothers, one of whom has become the sheikh of their Bedouin tribe following the death of their father. They are escorting a British soldier (played by Jack Fox, son of James), through the desert - the film is set in the deserts of Hijaz (now part of Saudi Arabia) - in helping him try to escape the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to a destination which is never revealed.

Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler creates awesome shots of desert mountains, layered rocks and insect life, particularly when crawling on bloodied dead bodies!, as well as magical images of a galaxy of stars at night time.

Talking about mountains, John Ford filmed some of his westerns in this part of the world and, if in tribute to him, midway through the film there is an absurd shoot-out, as if from a B western movie, between the travelling party and arabs trying to steal their camels.

Almost as ridiculous was the scene when Theeb falls into a deep and wide water well, but despite his small stature and tender years, manages to climb out of it to safety. Fanciful to the extreme, almost like most of the film.

It was sponsored and co-produced by particular entities, including a king, in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and the UK. Maybe this mix of backers is the reason for the inauthentic nature of Theeb.

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Comment left by Ron Sear on 19th August, 2015 at 19:11
Absolutely terrible review which should be completely ignored. I have been to this part of the world during periods of local difficulty and believe me the background, the nature of the people and the sense of threat are completely believable. There is nothing problematical oabout a small boy climbing out of a well, anybody who has climbed will have seen this as an easy feat. The reviewer clearly knows absolutely nothing about what happened historically and even less about the nature of the reaction of people when they are being shot at. Ther is nothing at all absurd about the ambush and I speak from experience. The jibes about the backers of the movie are a pathetic cheap shot derived from infantile political reasoning. This a truly fine film that is a must see for anybody with a love of flim and hatred of critical ignorance.