Theeb is set in the Hejaz (now part of Saudi Arabia) on the eve of the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1916 — but you don’t need to be clued up on its historical backdrop, because its protagonist isn’t. Jacir Eid plays the titular adolescent (the name meaning “wolf”), the youngest son of a now-dead Bedouin leader. When his older brother Hussein (Hussein Al-Sweilhiyeen) is called upon to help guide a suspiciously tense British soldier (Jack Fox) to a well, Theeb disobeys an order to stay put and follows them into the unforgiving desert. Then, tragedy strikes in the middle of nowhere, throwing him into an uneasy alliance with an enemy, without whom he won't survive the treacherous journey home.
Era-ending political machinations are unfolding all around him, but Theeb lends the film his childlike perspective so that it plays out more like the coming-of-age story of a young cub than a Lawrence of Arabia-style epic. Even as it boldly subverts that classic, though, Theeb's cinematography mirrors the haunting, hostile beauty of David Lean’s film — making the desert feel as much a character as the boy. Deftly balancing a sense of earth-shattering personal stakes with one of looming historical portent, Theeb earned a well-deserved nomination at the 2016 Oscars.
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller
Actor: Hassan Mutlag, Hussein Salameh, Jacir Eid, Jack Fox, Marji Audeh
Director: Naji Abu Nowar