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Film / Theeb

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Theeb ("Wolf") is a 2014 film from Jordan directed by Naji Abu Nowar.

Arabian Peninsula, Hejaz province, 1916. Theeb is a boy of maybe 12, a member of the Howeitat tribe of nomadic herders. One day Theeb is surprised to see an Englishman, wearing British Army khaki, visiting their tribe. The Englishman's interpreter explains that he needs a guide to take him to the Hejaz railway. Theeb's older brother Hussein is tabbed to guide the foreigner.

The party sets off, and Theeb follows after them. When he catches up with the threesome, Hussein and the translator want to take him back, but the Englishman has something very important to do and will brook no delay, so they take Theeb with them. The Englishman has a mysterious wooden box and gets very angry when Theeb touches it.

They never make it to the railway. Disaster strikes, and Theeb winds up left alone in the desert. Theeb is in dire peril but possible salvation arrives—in the person of a murderous black-clad bandit.



  • As You Know: Hussein's "Don't tell our brother" when he and Theeb are horsing around in the opening scene economically tells the audience about their family relationship.
  • Audible Sharpness: Theeb is looking at two people far above him at the top of the well, so Audible Sharpness lets the audience know that one of the bandits has pulled a knife. The bandit then cuts the rope to the well bucket.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Theeb doesn't wear shoes, as emphasized by a closeup when he heads off on foot to catch up to the party of saboteurs.
  • Call-Back: Early in the film, Theeb holds up a mirror while the Englishman carefully shaves. In the last scene he watches an Ottoman officer carefully shaving in a dusty desert fort.
  • Chromosome Casting: No women in the movie, not even in the opening scenes with Theeb and his tribe.
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  • Circling Vultures: Theeb is in a pretty tight spot, alone at the well, with no food and not even any way to get the water as the rope to the bucket was cut. This is emphasized when he looks up and sees vultures circling overhead.
  • Coming of Age Story: A young boy goes off hoping for adventure, experiences a terrifying ordeal that ends with him killing someone, and finally heads home, now obviously much less of a young boy.
  • Desert Bandits: Black-clad desert bandits attack Theeb's little group, killing the Englishman and the translator and, after an overnight siege, Theeb's brother Hussein. A little later a seriously wounded bandit is carried back to the camp, and eventually saves Theeb's life.
  • Diegetic Switch: When the saboteur party camps for the night, the translator starts singing a song. The song continues to play the next morning over the soundtrack, as the party rides away.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock
    • Heard from the unseen bandits after they call for Hussein and Theeb, who are huddled together on the top of the rock, to surrender.
    • Heard again at the end during the final confrontation when Theeb points the gun at the bandit.
  • The Faceless: During the long sequence where the bandits attack the party of saboteurs, then lay siege to Theeb and Hussein, they are only shown from a distance and the camera never shows their faces. This makes it more dramatic later when Theeb finally does get a look at one of the bandits, a wounded man who falls off his camel.
  • Fatal Family Photo: The Englishman opens up his watch and Theeb sees a portrait of the Englishman's wife inside the watch cover. Naturally, he's killed.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: As the party makes its way through a canyon, the translator asks Hussein "Do you sense something?" Moments later, when they stop at a well, the bandits attack.
  • Ludd Was Right: The bandit mournfully tells Theeb that he and his family were pilgrim guides who worked guiding pilgrims to Mecca, until the Ottomans built the railroad and made them obsolete.
  • Match Cut: A cut from the Englishman lighting his cigarette to the camp fire. Possibly a Shout-Out to the famous match cut from Lawrence of Arabia, another film about the Arab Revolt.
  • No Name Given: The bandit who looks after Theeb in the second half of the movie is credited as "The Stranger".
  • Not Quite Dead: A man on a camel wanders up to the well, then falls off the camel. Theeb thinks he's dead, so he goes through the man's possessions and tries and fails to take off on the camel. He's startled to wake up the next morning and find the man alive and looking at him.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with Theeb riding off on the bandit's camel, after Theeb kills him.
  • Plunger Detonator: It's pretty obvious that the wooden box that the English officer so carefully guards is a Plunger Detonator, and that his mission is to blow up the railway, but it isn't confirmed until the final scene where the bandit sells it to the Ottoman officer.
  • Stubborn Mule:
    • Theeb's mule won't carry him, forcing Theeb to catch up with the saboteur party on foot.
    • Later, when the bandit is laying unconscious in the sand, his camel won't carry Theeb either.
  • Thirsty Desert: Theeb winds up stuck in the desert next to a well that he can't drink from because the bandits cut the rope to the bucket. Luckily, the one bandit that is carried back by his camel has a waterskin.