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Film Review by Diane McCurdy: Theeb

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Film Review by Diane McCurdy
Theeb

by Diane McCurdy

Theeb was one of the nominees for best picture at this year’s Academy Awards. It was up against Mustang from France, Embrace the Serpent from Colombia, A War from Denmark and
Son of Saul from Hungary. Son of Saul deals with a man searching for a rabbi at Auschwitz in order to give a young boy a proper burial. The Academy seems to favor the Holocaust and Son of Saul won. However, if a film is singled out from the hundreds that are submitted for a nomination it has to be well done and Theeb is a good movie.

The narrative begins in 1916 in a desert country located in the farthest most reaches of the Ottoman Empire. It is a tale that evolves around, Theeb, the youngest son of a sheik who has recently died.

This Bedouin family traditionally have been guides who ferry pilgrims from place to place through the harsh topography. The landscape is photographed majestically; huge stone mountains, endless seas of sand but it is more forgiving than other desert movies in that there are wells interspersed along the trails and scrub brush that breaks the monotony of beige. Theeb idol worships his older brother and when the brother is engaged to lead an English officer to a Roman well Theeb is adamantly discouraged from joining the group. But, he tags along anyway. It is a particularly dangerous journey through territory patrolled by marauding bandits and political insurgents. Eventually they become surrounded by renegades and Theeb and a wounded outlaw are the only survivors. They desperately need one another to survive and they form an uneasy alliance.

This coming of age story is gritty indeed. Kudos to all the players as the English actor, Jack Fox, is the only professional. There are images that resonate resolutely. A goat is slaughtered to honor guests and the beller that emanates from that terrified beast is enough to call forth vegetarian roots from the most confirmed of carnivores. When the destination well is reached, the dehydrated soldier reaches down the retrieve a bucket of water and immediately splashes his face and we see that the water is red with the blood of bodies that have been thrown into the well. The last scene is problematic in that a more Middle Eastern morality is portrayed triumphantly, rather than the code we in the West, at least, purport to ascribe to.

Theeb means wolf and although he may appear to be just an unruly pre-pubescent scamp he is wily and wise beyond his years