Tuesday, January 19, 2016

[Review] Theeb

Fresh off the announcement of Oscar nominees, the previously unavailable (for the most part) Foreign Language selections are finally making their way into theaters here in the United States. And that's the case with Theeb, a Jordanian coming-of-age desert trek.

Set in Hejaz (a western region of modern-day Saudi Arabia) during Word War I, this story is told through the eyes of the title character--a young boy (played by Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) learning the nomadic lifestyle of his tribe. Eventually, his older brother Hussein is tasked with guiding a British officer to the Ottoman Railway, and Theeb decides to tag along for the journey.

Sometimes walks through the desert can be a bit slow, dry, and sleepy on film, but director Naji Abu Nowar keeps things interesting. Here, he's gathered first time actors (who all do a swell job) and he presents them and their situations with significant realism. There's plenty of attention to detail for the desert's sounds and silences. And the scavenging, screentime-hungry flies (who constantly land on the actors' faces) lend a sense of raw and droughtful authenticity.

The wide, barren landscapes are nicely framed and shot with a crystal clear view, whether it's the rippling sand terrain or the peculiar formations of curvy mountain crevices. And as vast as the area is, danger is never very far away--which adds some engaging stakes to the narrative, especially when Theeb is separated from the group. A couple of staggering images crop up when Theeb falls into a waterhole while a shootout with raiders ensues.

Theeb is a poised directorial debut for Naji Abu Nowar, as well as an impressive acting display for Jacier Eid Al-Hwietat, who carries the majority of the load on his own. The film won't necessarily sweep you away, but it's certainly worthy of the respect it's receiving.


No comments:

Post a Comment