In the Ottoman province of Hijaz in 1916, a young Bedouin boy named Theeb (Jacir Eid) is learning to become a man from his brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh). Bedouin custom says that guests cannot be refused aid, so when a British officer and his guide wind up in the camp of Theeb’s tribe, his older brother is assigned the task of guiding them to their destination. Curious about what the officer carries, and where they are going, Theeb follows the group. This plan ultimately backfires, forcing Theeb to grow up much faster than he had expected.

Theeb is the debut feature film from director Naji Abu Nowar, and it is an amazing piece of work. The harsh landscape is rendered into a beautiful backdrop for this surprising story, giving the film a kind of dreamlike state.

Details are a bit hard to come by in the film, as we follow the storyline through the eyes of Theeb. We get bits and pieces of conversations, depending on what Theeb can overhear, and it’s never quite enough to get the full picture. Our curiosity matches that of Theeb, who heads out to follow his brother and the mysterious British officer.

The strongest aspect of the film is the completely surprising events that take place. Each time you think one thing will happen, Naji Abu Nowar goes in the opposite direction. Things begin slowly, but after the first 30 minutes, the film picks up and doesn’t stop until the credits.

Is Theeb essential festival viewing?

An amazing debut feature from Naji Abu Nowar that shouldn’t be missed. It’s rare that a film manages to surprise viewers at every turn, especially for cinephiles who are so well versed in film, but this movie does just that and it’s a very rewarding experience.

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